Friday was the last day the special Superstorm Sandy docket in Ocean County New Jersey was under the authority of Judge Robert Fall. Anybody writing the history of Superstorm Sandy litigation would be remiss to not credit Judge Fall for resolving and moving a very large docket of Superstorm Sandy insurance cases.
Civil trial attorney Ed Kassleman told me that I would like Fall after he was first appointed. His reputation was that of a very bright, hard working, practical and wise jurist. He was sought after by other judges to come out of retirement to lead the legion of Superstorm Sandy cases being filed in the Toms River Courthouse.
It was apparent from the time I first met him why he was so sought after and why he enjoyed his fine reputation. He is a leader and strongly encouraged resolution based on applying facts to the rules of law and common sense. He had a good familiarity with property insurance law and got better at knowing even the smallest nuance of it, often reciting cases by name and rules of law with the exceptions. While this may sound strange, even when I thought he was wrong about a rule of law, he knew the support for why he was correct and stated it with a smile rather than arrogance often embracing other judges.
When I first came to new Jersey, I was warned there was a shortage of judges and that cases usually dragged on for several years. Numbers do not lie and of the 750 cases assigned to Judge Fall, less than 250 remain and most of those remaining are the ones filed within the last twelve months. The last one he resolved Friday was one of my many wind versus flood disputes of a business on the Seaside Heights Boardwalk.
He also wrote many extraordinary opinions regarding concurrent causation and coverage issues. Judge Fall was an appellate court judge at one time and it showed in the depth of legal analysis, many over 50 pages. I unsuccessfully suggested that he follow Mississippi District Court Judge Sentor’s lead by publishing all his Superstorm Sandy opinions to provide guidance to attorneys about how issues would be resolved.
We had four Merlin Law Group attorneys in Toms River at settlement conferences before Judge Fall on Friday. Here is a picture he graciously agreed to take with Ashley Harris, Chase Mathis and myself.
The best wisdom comes from honest intelligence and passionate experience dedicated to making this world a better place for all. Everybody talks of Judge Fall’s leadership and at its core is the wisdom he has earned. Let me paraphrase just one of his from Friday:
‘We should be concerned about making good citizens. To do that, we need great role models and that first comes from making great parents and teachers."
He was talking to my client who was a teacher. And while it may have had the impact of endearing her to him so she would possibly agree to his view of a resolution, his statement was absolutely true. To his credit, Judge Robert Fall is a great role model for any lawyer, jurist, citizen and parent. He has been a blessing to me and everybody involved with Superstorm Sandy disputes. He will be missed.