Brooklyn’s legal community mourns Supreme Court Justice Anthony J. Cutrona, 74
Kings County Supreme Court Justice Anthony J. Cutrona passed away Wednesday surrounded by his family. He was 74 years old.
Cutrona’s death came as a shock to many in the Brooklyn legal community. “I almost have no words,” said attorney Dominic Famulari. “Judge Cutrona was a great leader and is irreplaceable.”
A lifelong resident of Brooklyn, Cutrona served on the bench from 1999 until his untimely death. The son of Italian immigrants, for much of his youth, only Italian was spoken in the Cutrona home.
Cutrona attended Villanova University on a football scholarship and completed his pre-law requirements at Fordham University. Graduating from New York Law School in 1966, Cutrona was admitted to the New York State Bar a year later.
After he was admitted, Cutrona started the general practice Brooklyn law firm of DiCostanzo & Cutrona. Working as a general practitioner, Cutrona gained the respect of his peers. This ultimately led to his nomination and appointment to then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s Mayor’s Advisory Committee on the Judiciary.
Cutrona also served as a member of the Committee on Character and Fitness, Appellate Division Second Department, having been appointed by former presiding Justice Milton Mollen in 1990.
Cutrona strongly believed in serving the legal community in as many ways as he could. He served for three years as a trustee of the Brooklyn Bar Association (BBA) from 1992-1995 and then as treasurer, secretary, second vice president and first vice president until his elevation to the bench.
“A member of the Brooklyn Bar Association for 30 years, Judge Cutrona served our association as a trustee before being moved to the executive board,” noted current BBA President Domenick Napoletano. “He served the Brooklyn Bar Association with the dignity he carried throughout his life. His passing is a terrible blow not only to the BBA and its members but also the Brooklyn judicial system. All of his friends on the bench and in the courthouse will be mourning his death for some time.”
Cutrona may be best known for his work with the Columbian Lawyers Association of Brooklyn. He took the reigns as president in 1972, following in the footsteps of his father-in-law, Philip F. DiCostanzo. “He was the linchpin of the Columbian Lawyers Association,” attorney Greogry Laspina recalled.
“The level of commitment to his family, his profession, and his career on the bench, and certainly the Columbian Lawyers Association, was uncanny. Cutrona was committed to treating everyone with dignity, whether a litigant or an incapacitated person he was dealing with in the Mental Hygiene part. He was the fabric of the Brooklyn legal community.”
“Cutrona has been very warmly and often called the heart and soul of our association,” Bruce Codiposti, current president of the Columbian Lawyers Association, said fondly. “He earned this title because of his dedication to Columbianism. This is a devastating loss for our association, the legal community, and so many of us who knew him personally. Judge Cutrona’s death leaves a void that cannot be filled. Nonetheless, we will continue to honor him and carry forward his legacy.”
Before becoming a Supreme Court Justice, Justice Cutrona devoted himself to many other educational, fraternal and civic associations and causes. As a distinguished alumnus of La Salle Military Academy, he and his wife Marianne were specially honored in January 1986 and presented with Letters of Benefaction by the Brothers of the Christian Schools. He was also a member of the board of directors of the Coalition of Italo-American Associations, a leading defender of Italian-American causes in the New York. Other organizations in which he was involved include the Knights of Columbus and the National Italian American Foundation.
Since being elected as a Supreme Court Justice in January 1999, Hon. Cutrona’s two primary assignments had been presiding over the Mental Hygiene Part and one of the Guardianship Parts of the Court. It was the Mental Hygiene part, over which he presided for 14 years, where he made his mark. The justice’s dedication and concern to the mentally ill was unparalleled. He spent many sleepless nights agonizing over his cases and the suffering he saw. Justice Cutrona was particularly moved by the children. He often talked about how he was haunted by their sad faces and their daunting futures. He was determined to make a difference and he did.
“Judge Cutrona was a wonderful friend, colleague, and mentor,” noted fellow Kings County Supreme Court Justice Sylvia Ash. “He encouraged me to join the Columbian Lawyers Association of Brooklyn. He was greatly loved by all and will be dearly missed.”
Cutrona’s most lasting contribution and the one he was most proud of is his role in establishing “Kendra’s Law,” a state law allowing courts to order certain individuals with serious mental illness to stay in treatment while living in the community.
Justice Barry Kamins, acting administrative judge for Kings County Supreme Court, Civil Term, reflected on Hon. Cutrona’s role as a judge. “Judge Cutrona was truly loved by his colleagues and the court staff. He always said that the high point of his life was becoming a judge, and each day he exhibited a warmth and friendliness that became his trademark. He will truly be missed.”
Members in and out of the Brooklyn community expressed sorrow about the news of Judge Cutorna’s passing.
“It is with great sorrow that I learn about the passing of State Supreme Court Justice Anthony Cutrona. Judge Cutrona was an exceptional justice, great Brooklynite, proud Italian-American and a dear friend. He served as a Supreme Court Justice in Kings County since 1999. Judge Cutrona’s great loves were his family, his culture, and serving as the President Emeritus of the Colombian Lawyers Association of Brooklyn and Staten Island. His many contributions to Brooklyn over the years made him one of the borough’s greatest jurists and civic leaders, ” said Carlo Scissura, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce.
Justice Cutrona is survived by his wife of 54 years, the former Marianne DiCostanzo; his daughter, Marianne Cutrona Ritz; son-in-law, Charles Ritz; daughter, Carol Anne Cutrona; son, Michael A. Cutrona and daughter-in-law, Antonietta Chieco Cutrona.
He will be dearly missed by his five grandsons, Charles Ritz, Anthony Cutrona, Nicholas Ritz, Anthony Ritz and Tommaso Cutrona, and all of his family and friends.
Charisma L. Miller, Esq. of the Eagle contributed to this article.
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