PSS Spring '13


Diary of a DA

In a career that so far spans 50 years, Honorary Trustee Herbert J. Stern ’58, P’03, LL.D. ’74 has grown from an inexperienced ADA eager to learn from the legal legends in his midst to the man responsible for taking down the mob, corrupt politicians and even the head of the French CIA. And that was all before he became the youngest federal judge in the country. In Diary of a DA: The True Story of the Prosecutor who Took on the Mob, Fought Corruption, and Won, Stern takes readers on the journey that was his early career.

Stern graduated from Hobart with a B.A. in history, and went on to complete his J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School in 1961. He was awarded the Hobart Medal of Excellence in 1990, and was lead donor for Stern Hall. He is currently in private practice as a partner and founding member of the law firm of Stern & Kilcullen, in Florham Park, N.J.

Herbert J. Stern ’58, P’03, LL.D. ’74 was sworn in as an attorney at the age of 25, beginning his career as an assistant district attorney in New York City. At 37, he was sworn in as the youngest federal judge in the country. In the time between, he waged a war on corruption and bribery in the State of New Jersey. Among those he prosecuted were a number of members of the mafia, including Angelo “Gyp” DeCarlo (Frank Sinatra’s cousin and now a character in the Tony Award winning Broadway show “Jersey Boys”); Ritchie and Anthony Boiardo and Anthony Russo (all of whom were used as source material for the HBO Series “The Sopranos”); executives of the Colonial Pipeline Company, wholly owned by nine major oil companies; the mayors of Jersey City, Newark, and Atlantic City; a U.S. Congressman; members of the administrations of two successive governors; and the head of the French CIA.

Q and A with Herbert J. Stern '58, P'03, LL.D. '74

Why did you write this book?
Through this book, I wanted to – without lecturing but rather by examples from that time – draw some conclusions for those interested in the way the administration of justice works. Among these conclusions is that you can’t banish human discretion in the process. It doesn’t work. You tried some dangerous people; were you ever afraid for your life? No. I was young, in my early 30s, and didn’t believe I was ever going to die. My philosophy was that I was chasing them; they weren’t going to chase me.

What case had the most impact on you?
The bribery case in which we tried executives of The Colonial Pipeline Company. It’s where I learned my craft and where I learned how to investigate. I stumbled along until I figured that out.

What case had the most impact on the people you served?
The destruction of the longstanding political machine in Hudson County, which includes Jersey City, Hoboken, Bayonne and West New York. It was a publicly open joke where even the public employees had to kick back three percent of their salary. That probably had the greatest impact on the greatest number of lives.

Did you ever stop being surprised by the corruption you found?
I was never surprised that something bad was going on, I was surprised we found it. Whatever we stumbled upon happened after we stuck a pole in the cage and shook things up; we went looking for it.

Why was corruption so prevalent in New Jersey?
The underbelly had seized control. I don’t think you could find anything anywhere else like what we dragged into light in just three or four years. We were young and in a hurry and we knew time was not our friend so we went at it.

After the extortion-conspiracy trial of Newark Mayor Hugh Addonizio, you said you’d had all the trial work you needed and more. Did you eventually ever miss the trial work?
I was very happy to do the next thing. Everything in its season.


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Preparing Students to Lead Lives of Consequence.