UI alum mixing law and do-good volunteer work


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Michael Weinstock first set his sights on a run for political office while attending high school on the East Coast. With admiration for a Capitol Hill career, he took his youthful integrity and due diligence to a state unknown to him, the Hawkeye State to attend the University of Iowa in 1990.

The reason for moving more than 1,500 miles away from everything familiar, he says, was simple: The university’s political-science program at the time was one of the top in the country and the “cheap” out-of-state tuition was too easy to pass up.

And although he admits the UI wasn’t a great fit for him at the time, he said the experiences he took away and the individuals he met have helped shape who he has become today: A 15-year New York prosecutor, longtime volunteer firefighter, and author.

“I always had fun at the Field House, both the sports facility and the bar,” he said.

He lived in Hillcrest as a freshman and then in the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity house as a sophomore. 

But during his undergraduate career at the university, he also encountered a number of difficult experiences, including serving as an EMT volunteer during the Gang Lu shooting on the UI campus in November 1991.

“He immediately used his volunteer fire department skills to help out during the shooting,” longtime friend Rory Margulis said. “His time at UI has helped shape who he is today.”

Weinstock graduated from the UI with a B.A. in political science in 1994.

When he returned to campus in 2001 to speak at a guest lecture Macbride Auditorium hosted by one of his former instructors, UI religious-studies Professor Jay Holstein, he was flat broke.

“To say that they treated me warmly and calmly is an extreme understatement,” he said of his fraternity’s allowing him to stay as long as he needed to get back on his feet again.

But recent times have treated Weinstock much more favorably, he said.

He went on to graduate from New York’s St. John’s Law School, where the reality of political future seemed certain. Certain, he said, until he spoke with a former New York governor whom he long idolized who told him it would be better to pursue a law career before beginning a future in Washington.

It wasn’t long before the once-temporary career in law turned into a nearly two-decade-long endeavor. His reason?

“I have trouble saying no when somebody needs help,” he said. “Whether it’s coaching a high-school mock-trial team or helping a Merchant Marine cadet who made a mistake, I do a lot of good.” 

Over the past few years, he has written a number of editorial pieces, including for the likes of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, most recently in the June 17 Wall Street Journal piece, “Did Prosecutors Blunder in Transfer of Ex-Guatemalan Leader?”

But a former law partner says the publicity and success has yet to change the social responsibility Weinstock upholds personally.

Recalling Weinstock assisting an elderly woman who was having a heart attack while walking over New York’s Brooklyn Bridge, attorney and former partner Brian McCarthy said his dedication to others is unwavering.

“He really thinks that aiding others is something that engrained in his character,” he said. “His service in both the community and during times of tragedy, he never backs away.”

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