Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Joseph Falcone, Who Loved Being a Judge, Dies at 70

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Joseph Falcone, Who Loved Being a Judge, Dies at 70

Article excerpt

Retired state Superior Court Judge Joseph A. Falcone, whose tough love played as well to the defendants standing before him as it did to the courtroom gallery, died Tuesday of pancreatic cancer surrounded by his family at his Wayne home. He was 70.

Falcone reveled in being a judge, often welcoming classes of high school students to sit in on proceedings in his courtroom, then meeting with them afterward to answer questions.

Speaking from the bench, he combined the strictness of a disciplinarian with the humanity and understanding of a father. Just as he reached his most intimidating, he would crack a little smile.

Falcone's 25 years on the bench were marked by precedent-setting administrative legal reforms that changed lives and improved the system. While serving as Essex County assignment judge, a post he assumed in 1999, Falcone wrote a decision in connection with the much-publicized fire at Seton Hall University that led to legislation requiring residential colleges to install fire sprinklers. He also became known for reforms that greatly increased how fast cases reached resolution.

After earning a bachelor's degree from Rutgers University and his law degree from Rutgers-Camden School of Law, he was sworn as an Essex County assistant prosecutor in 1969. He became first assistant Passaic County prosecutor beginning in 1975, taking on the job of the county's top prosecutor in 1980. At different points, he served as assignment judge in both Essex and Passaic counties, making sweeping organizational improvements in each.

New Jersey Chief Justice Stuart Rabner praised Falcone's long and notable career. "He was a giant in the legal community," Rabner said. "He was a well-respected leader and a tireless public servant."

Passaic County Assignment Judge Donald J. Volkert said Falcone had an enthusiasm for his job that was inspiring. …

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