Matrimonial lawyer Angelo Cometa, who served as president of the New York State Bar Association from 1990 to 1991, died Wednesday, April 16, after a long illness. He was 82.
Cometa spent most of his career, from 1969 to 1994, at Phillips Nizer, where he handled white-collar crime, attorney misconduct and matrimonial cases.
“He was a fixture and a leader of our matrimonial department for many years,” said Phillips Nizer litigation partner Martin Wasser. “He was gracious and talented and had an infectious personality. Everyone at the firm gravitated toward him and liked him immensely.”
After leaving Phillips Nizer as a partner, Cometa joined Tenzer Greenblatt, a midsize firm specializing in high-profile divorces that merged with Blank Rome in 2000. Cometa retired from practice in the late 1990s.
Cometa was a member of the state bar’s House of Delegates for 49 years. At various times he chaired the bar’s nominating committee and committees on election law, grievances and professional discipline, and group and prepaid legal services.
As state bar president, Cometa advocated for increased compensation for judges and adequate funding for the Interest on Lawyer Account (IOLA) Fund. He also led a successful effort to block a proposed sales tax on legal services in New York. Under his leadership, the bar created its Lawyer Assistance Program, pro bono department and what is now known as the law practice management department.
“Angelo Cometa made an indelible impact on the legal profession and public during his years of bar leadership. He helped the state bar navigate issues of great concern to the profession and helped thousands of New Yorkers obtain access to justice through the Lawyer Referral and Information Service,” said David Schraver, the state bar president and a partner at Nixon Peabody, in a press release.
In 2007, the bar presented Cometa with the inaugural Angelo T. Cometa Award, given to those who advance the goals of the Committee on Lawyer Referral Service, which he once chaired.
Cometa, a U.S. Army veteran, graduated from Fordham University and earned his law degree from Fordham Law School in 1956.
Before joining Phillips Nizer, Cometa was an assistant district attorney in Manhattan, an assistant counsel at the State Commission of Investigation and chief counsel of the Coordinating Committee on Discipline, Appellate Division, First Department.
Cometa is survived by his wife, Betty Jane Cometa; a son, Thomas Cometa; three daughters, Ariane Cometa, Allison Cometa Schnalzer and Victoria White; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, May 3 at the Episcopal Church of the Holy Innocents, 410 S. Atlantic Avenue in Beach Haven, N.J.
Editors’ Note: This item has been updated to reflect a Correction.