'Doing Time' With Enduring Criminal Law Lecturer Bob Weinberg

UVA Law Adjunct Professor Has Taught Criminal Procedure Seminar for More Than 50 Years Straight
Robert "Bob" Weinberg

Bob Weinberg, who was a founding partner of the well-known Washington, D.C., law firm Williams & Connolly, has always made time to pass on his knowledge to law students.

December 21, 2016

With more than 50 consecutive years served, adjunct professor Robert "Bob" Weinberg has been cheerfully doing time at the University of Virginia School of Law.

Weinberg has taught his Criminal Procedure Seminar every year, either in the fall or spring, since 1965. The seminar is based primarily on the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure and is geared toward students who seek to prosecute or defend criminal cases during their careers.

"I've enjoyed the 50 years, and still do," Weinberg said. "It's a great field, a challenging field." 

Weinberg's services were highly sought after as a founding partner of the prominent Washington, D.C., law firm Williams & Connolly.

He also ran twice as a U.S. congressional candidate in Virginia's 10th District.

But no matter how busy he was, it was always essential to him to keep teaching. "I feel it's very important to try to improve the law," he said.

In practice, Weinberg specialized in litigating both civil and criminal cases. But "the criminal cases tended to be the more interesting and the more challenging."

Weinberg got two clients off of death row during his career (one was his very first client), and he also was court-appointed counsel for a man accused of a lesser criminal act — grand larceny shoplifting — in Gaither v. United States.

Gaither was important because it set a precedent.

"They never showed the completed indictment to the grand jury," Weinberg said of the D.C. pre-trial process. "That [omission] was held by the D.C. Circuit to violate the Fifth Amendment guarantee of the defendant's right to a grand jury indictment. It wasn't a valid grand jury indictment if the jury didn't see and approve the final version."

Prosecutors continue to this day to "Gaitherize" their indictments, he said. "After they've gotten the jury to vote, after they've drawn up the completed indictment, they read it to grand jurors, or show it to them."

Weinberg retired from practice in 1996. Even so, he said, it hasn't been hard to keep up with the changes in criminal procedure over time.

"The most important changes are the constitutional changes, in cases such as Miranda and Gideon," he said. "The rules of procedure for litigating cases in court have changed less in the criminal area than the civil area in recent years."

Weinberg describes his seminar as a "nuts-and-bolts" skills course for students who have already had basic instruction in constitutional law and criminal procedure. The situations in the class are simulated, but the students treat the cases as if they were real.

"In this course they have to write an indictment from a hypothetical set of facts," Weinberg said. "They then move to dismiss each other's indictments. And they have to represent an individual defendant, or act as the prosecutor opposing the defense motions. For the last class of the term, they argue the motions they've written."

Weinberg plays the trial judge for the oral arguments.

Among his many career accomplishments, Weinberg was president of both the District Columbia Bar and the Bar Association of District Columbia, the latter of which he currently serves as a foundation trustee. The bar association named him Washington Lawyer of the Year in 2000. He also served as president of the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, founded by Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg, and is a recipient of the group's 2009 Pursuit of Justice Award.

In law school at Yale University, he was note and comment editor of the Yale Law Journal, and a member of Order of the Coif. He also received a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics.

His son Jeremy Weinberg is a 2006 graduate of UVA Law.

"Generations of students, many of whom have gone on to prominent careers as U.S. attorneys and defense attorneys, can thank Bob for their first introduction to the inside workings of federal criminal practice," said Professor Brandon Garrett, an expert in exonerating the falsely accused who has been a guest speaker in Weinberg's class.

Professor Kenneth Abraham, himself a long-serving member of the faculty, said Weinberg is an outstanding example of professional dedication among lecturers.

"Bob Weinberg's commitment to teaching and to the Law School for half a century is a model of what we hope the lawyers who lend their expertise to our curriculum will be," Abraham said.

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