By Kevin Coughlin
Former Superior Court Assignment Judge Reginald Stanton, a key figure in the national right-to-die debate, will be remembered with services this week in Morristown.
The local resident died at home last week. He was 83.
In 1983, Stanton was the first judge in America to uphold a terminally ill patient’s right to refuse nourishment through a feeding tube, according to the Florham Park law firm of Drinker Biddle, where he was Of Counsel after reaching the judiciary’s mandatory retirement age of 70.
That right was affirmed in the Supreme Court’s right-to-die ruling in 1990.
Other high-profile Stanton cases included Arthur and Irene Seale, the couple convicted of the kidnap and murder of Exxon executive Sidney Reso, and the trial of Thomas Kosovich for the murder of two Sussex County pizza deliverymen.
“Reginald Stanton was one of New Jersey’s most respected and revered judges,” James M. Sweet, then chairman of Drinker Biddle, said in 2003, citing the jurist’s “impeccable reputation for fairness and impartiality.”
“He commanded the respect of all of those who entered his courtroom by treating defendants and plaintiffs with intelligence and dignity, serving as a model of excellence and integrity in our court system during his extraordinary judicial career,” the Morris County Freeholders said in a statement after his death.
The flag was lowered the half staff in front of the Morris County Courthouse, where Stanton served for three decades, becoming assignment judge of Morris and Sussex counties in 1985.
A wake is scheduled for Wednesday, July 20, 2016, from 3 pm to 8 p.m. at the Doyle Funeral Home, at 106 Maple Ave. in Morristown.
A funeral Mass is set for Thursday, July 21, 2016, at 11 a.m. at St. Margaret of Scotland Church, at 6 Sussex Ave. Burial is at Holy Rood Cemetery in Morris Township.
‘TIRELESS WORK ETHIC’
A native of Jersey City, Stanton spent two years as a Jesuit novitiate before attending St. Peter’s College, where he received a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford University in England.
He earned his law degree from the New York University School of Law, as a recipient of the Root-Tilden Scholarship. He also served as research editor of NYU’s Law Review, and as brief writer for the National Moot Court Championship Team, according to his obituary.
Stanton was an Army veteran, achieving the rank of infantry lieutenant. He began his legal career with the firm Jeffers and Mountain, in Morrristown. He was appointed to the Superior Court in 1975.
Over the years he served as president of the Morris County Bar Association, the Morristown Club, the Kiwanis Club, the Morris County Legal Aid Society, and St Peter’s College Alumni Association.
Stanton also was a founding member of the Delbarton Parents of Graduates Association, the first lay trustee of St. Peter’s College, an active member of St. Margaret’s Parish, and trustee and board chair of Loyola House of Retreats.
He taught at Seton Hall Law School and the National Judicial College, and was a board member of the Morris County School of Technology. He also served on the Rhodes Scholarship selection committee. St. Peter’s College and Seton Hall University awarded him honorary degrees.
“Judge Stanton’s presence always will be felt – in a very positive way — in Courtroom Number One at the Morris County Courthouse,” said the freeholders, who lauded his “tireless work ethic” and his “fair, independent and impartial court.”
Yet Stanton considered his family as “his greatest joy and proudest accomplishment,” according to his obituary.
Stanton is survived by his wife of 51 years, Marie (Gerne) Stanton; their two children, Reginald G. Stanton and Catherine Stanton Flanagan, her husband, Larkin Stepan Flanagan; and six grandchildren, Caitlin Flanagan, Larkin Flanagan, Kelly Flanagan, Perpetua Stanton, Conor Flanagan, and Seton Stanton. He was a “devoted uncle” to many nieces and nephews.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to St. Margaret’s Church.