“No, no problem,” is what Union City Municipal Court Judge Joseph N. Falbo said when asked to drive a surveillance truck for the city’s Narcotics Task Force.
“This was before he was a judge,” said Frank Mona, who was the officer in charge of the narcotics team in the late 1960s and early 1970s, explaining that Falbo was a prosecutor and working for the city then. “He was always very helpful.”
However, as Falbo became more known and promoted to municipal court judge, he had to give up driving the vans.
“He was becoming more known to these characters,” said Mona. “A lot of them who couldn’t put two and two together could put this together. Now here is this guy that they saw in the court room just last week; now he is sitting in this truck.”
Helping out the police department was just one of the things that Falbo loved to do for the city in which he spent his whole life.
“He loved the police officers,” said Falbo’s wife, Margaret. “He just thought they were the greatest and he showed it to them.”
Falbo, 83, passed away on Oct. 27 at his shore home in Neptune. The city planned a memorial service for him on Friday, Dec. 15 in the municipal courtroom on the second floor of City Hall. The courtroom was dedicated as the Joseph N. Falbo Courtroom at the service.
“I always wondered if they really appreciated him,” said his wife. “Now I know they truly did.”
Serving the community
Falbo received his law degree from John Marshall School of Law and passed the bar exam in 1941. He began his career as a member of the Union City legal department and served as the city’s first Bingo commissioner.
He was appointed to his first term as municipal court judge in 1969 by former Mayor William Musto after serving as the city’s prosecutor for several years.
“The amount of time that he has put into the city, not just as a municipal court judge but with the other positions he has held, is over 50 years of employment,” said Union City Mayor Brian Stack.
“He loved Union City,” said Falbo’s wife. “He gave his whole life to it.”
Falbo served as judge until 1972, when he decided to go into private practice. He then served as municipal court judge again in 1980 for five years and was reappointed again in 1987.
“He brought a lot of life to the courtroom,” said Stack. “Talking to him was like opening a history book.”
Falbo held a second job as a master of ceremonies at debutante balls and other events at the Plaza Hotel and Hotel Pierre in New York City from the 1950s to 1970s.
“He was quite a character,” said Mona, adding that he loved to perform Frank Sinatra songs using the same facial expressions and hand gestures as the singer.
“There was only one of him,” said his wife, referring to her husband.
Quite the character
“Few people are so representative of this city and so universally respected and admired by all who have known him, as is Joseph N. Falbo,” is how the late judge had been described by former Mayor Bruce Walter and his commissioners in 1997.
There are very few people that Falbo did not touch in some way. From the former owners of Termini’s Pizzeria on Bergenline Avenue, where Falbo used to eat lunch each day, to the people who stood before him in his courtroom, no one was exempt.
“Strangers have called me and said that he has touched their lives,” said his wife.