My friend, former law partner, and fellow judge, Marty, (the Honorable Martin E. Kravarik) died on April 4. I was unaware of his death until it was too late for me to return from vacation for his funeral.
In any event, I would not have been able to attend because the calling hours and funeral services fell on the last days of Passover. Marty would have understood, because above all he was a deeply religious man. Not necessarily a man who cared much about the outward trappings of religion, but a man who lived the tenets of his faith. And that was exhibited in every aspect of his life. He was a devoted husband, father and grandfather, and served our country as an Air Force pilot for five years.
I learned a lot about public service and how to treat people from Marty. He served the State of New Jersey as an Assemblyman, Municipal Court Judge and Superior Court Judge. But his legacy is the kindness and respect he showed to everyone. In his court, there was not a person who could ever say that he was not treated with dignity. Lawyers, politicians, staff and litigants were afforded his equal attention and concern.
Marty made it a point to call or write to lawyers whose accomplishments appeared in a newspaper or law journal. He sent condolences to people who suffered a loss even if he was not really friendly with them. He truly cared.
My fondest memories of him are the many lunchtime walks we took around New Brunswick. We discussed the cases we were trying, the lawyers who were appearing before us, and the legal issues presented; and I learned what a deep understanding he had of the law and of people. We discussed comparative religion, and I learned how thorough was his knowledge of both of our religions, and how tolerance of every person’s belief system was his creed.
Politically we were on the same page most of the time, but he was always willing to understand the other viewpoint. Above all, I remember a man who, on those walks, warmly greeted strangers as we strolled passed them and who offered to help the elderly cross the street. At first, I thought it was a bit eccentric, but watching the appreciation on their faces helped me understand the value of his behavior. Ultimately he taught me what the phrase in the Ethics of the Fathers meant: The honor of your fellow should be as precious to you as your own.
Mark B. Epstein, J.S.C (Ret.), is of counsel to Hoagland, Longo, Moran, Dunst & Doukas in New Brunswick. His practice is focused on arbitration, mediation and acting as special discovery/allocation master.