Albert Tomei, a retired state Supreme Court justice who sat in Brooklyn and spent more than 30 years on the bench, died Sept. 22. He was 77.
Tomei presided over New York City’s first death penalty case after the state reinstated capital punishment in 1995. He ruled the plea bargain provisions of the law were unconstitutional and the case went all the way to the state Court of Appeals.
The death penalty was abolished in New York in 1997.
Tomei retired last year and went on to work for Judges for Love Inc., a service where judges perform civil wedding ceremonies.
“He went from sentencing felons to execution to sentencing romantic couples to a lifetime of marriage,” said Alan Marrus, also a retired state Supreme Court justice who sat in Brooklyn and who worked alongside Tomei for Judges for Love.
While Tomei was well-known in New York City’s legal community in his own right, he was also known for a famous relative: actress Marisa Tomei, who won an Oscar in 1993 for best supporting actress for her role in “My Cousin Vinny.”
A Brooklyn native, Tomei obtained his J.D. and LL.M from Brooklyn Law School in 1964 and 1966, respectively. He worked in private practice after law school and was first elected to the bench in 1978, as a Civil Court judge.
Tomei was briefly appointed as Brooklyn’s surrogate in 2005 after the Commission on Judicial Conduct recommended the removal of surrogate Michael Feinberg for awarding more than $2 million in excessive legal fees to a friend.
Office of Court Administration officials said at the time that Tomei’s appointment was intended to restore public confidence.
While Tomei was known within Brooklyn’s legal community for his sense of humor and his stand-up comedy routine, Marrus said he had a reputation for being a no-nonsense judge who was not afraid to speak his mind on the bench.
“He didn’t come across as a pompous, arrogant judge which, unfortunately, some of my colleagues do,” Marrus said.
Tomei is survived by his wife, Lynda Sumner, two sisters, one brother and a granddaughter. He was preceded in death by his daughter, Lisa.