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Legal community remembers Justice Noach Dear as empathetic and compassionate

April 21, 2020 Rob Abruzzese
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Supreme Court Justice Noach Dear became the second active judge in Brooklyn to die of the coronavirus on Sunday morning, and he is remembered for being an empathetic and compassionate judge who tried to help Brooklynites no matter their situation.

“Four years ago Judge Dear introduced himself with a joke and a big smile on his face,” his court clerk Suzanne Marsh recalled. “It was the beginning of a wonderful professional relationship and an even better friendship. He cared greatly about helping those he felt were in need.

“Judge Dear would make sure all who entered his courtroom felt attended to; no one was left unheard. He was a family man through and through. His family was his pride and joy and would always smile at their mention. He will be sorely missed.”

Justice Dear grew up in Brooklyn, attended Yeshiva Torah Vodaas, Brooklyn College and later Brooklyn Law School. He became a member of the City Council in 1983, where he represented the neighborhoods of Midwood, Borough Park and parts of Bensonhurst.

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When he left office in 2001, he was appointed as the Commissioner of the Taxi and Limousine Commission where he gained notoriety by opposing “dollar vans.”

After unsuccessful campaigns for State Senate and U.S. Congress, Dear was elected as a Brooklyn Civil Court judge in 2008. In 2010 he was promoted to acting Supreme Court justice and finally in 2015 he was elected to a 14-year term to the Kings County Supreme Court, where he sat until his death.

“Judge Dear was an advocate for the people and he was not afraid of going against the grain in pursuit of justice and fairness,” said Monique Holaman, Judge Dear’s associate court attorney. “I admired his tenacity and his efforts for our Part to settle cases efficiently and amicably. Outside of the courtroom, Justice Dear was a family man and our Part was like an extended family to him. His commitment to us and our families remained a top priority and our input was valued in any decision he made. I will miss Judge Dear’s spirit, his kindness and his sense of humor. This is indeed a loss for many.”

Justice Dear focused on consumer debt issues as a judge and was asked by former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman to write a manual for judges on credit card debt.

Later on, he began hearing cases regarding foreclosures in Brooklyn and established a program called “Friend of the Court” which helped pro se litigants get representation.

“He set an example as he facilitated settlements that allowed many people facing foreclosure to remain in their homes, established a ‘friend of the court’ system in his courtroom whereby unrepresented litigants could access pro bono legal services, and so much more,” said his assistant law clerk Deema Azizi. “I will remember Judge Dear for his compassion, kind heart, bright energy, and how much he cared about people. Judges and chambers staff often become like family, and that is how we were. His loss is truly felt.”

Beyond what he was willing to do for many Brooklynites in his courtroom, the people who worked for him remembered his kindness and the fact that he treated his employees like family.

“When I began working for Judge Dear in late 2012, it quickly became clear that he cared very much for his staff and our families,” said Joseph Etra, Dear’s principal law clerk. “Whenever any of us, or anyone else for that matter, needed something, he always put himself out to assist. Judge Dear similarly brought an element of humanity to the courtroom, weighing the toll his actions would take upon the counsel and litigants. He stressed the importance of going the extra mile to try to reach an amicable resolution and to gently word decisions whenever possible. His kindness will be missed.”

Lawyers who represented families whose houses were threatened by foreclosure said that they could rely on Judge Dear to go out of his way to help their clients retain their houses, even if it meant that he might be overturned in appeal.

“Just about every foreclosure case before him involved someone losing the home that they live in and that their family lives in — this is an enormous responsibility,” said Dominic Famulari, the immediate past president of the Catholic Lawyers Guild. “Judge Dear was aware that a lot of these defendants did not have legal defenses but he was also keenly aware that many of them were the victims of predatory and/or very unfair loans.”

Justice Dear was the second Brooklyn judge to die of the coronavirus. Justice Johnny Lee Baynes died on Thursday, March 26 of complications related to the virus. Retired Justice Gerard Rosenberg, a founder of the Nathan R. Sobel Inns of Court, died on Monday, April 6.

Two other Supreme Court justices contracted the virus, Hon. Lawrence Knipel and Hon. Wayne Saitta, but both are home recovering from the illness. Brooklyn Bar Association President Frank Carone also contracted the virus and is at home doing well.

“Judge Noach Dear was a friend and the two of us shared a particular bond primarily because he was my predecessor as a commissioner representing Brooklyn on the NYCTLC Commission,” Carone said. “Judge Dear had a certain energetic colorful persona that epitomized the great diversity not only with respect to the Kings County judiciary but also as a member of our Bar Association and Brooklyn Community at large. In fact, in calls all day today I have heard one consistent theme — that Judge Dear happily helped just about anyone who asked. He will be sorely missed.”

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