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Joel A. Pisano, a retired federal judge who presided over prominent cases involving political corruption and Ponzi schemes during his two-decade tenure with the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, died Friday. He was 71.

"His death leaves a void in what we call the federal family,'' said Donald Robinson, an attorney with a practice in Newark who argued cases before Pisano. "He was very active in bar affairs, and very active as a judge and as a mediator. He will be missed greatly."

The Newark law firm at which Pisano most recently worked, Walsh Pizzi O’Reilly Falanga LLP,  announced his death on its website. 

“Joel was a wise counselor and dear friend to all who came to know him during his time in private practice, his many years of public service on the federal bench, and as a mediator and arbitrator,’’ the statement said. 

Pisano, who lived in Spring Lake Heights and South Carolina, is survived by his wife, Elizabeth, the “federal court family” and by the “many young lawyers he mentored throughout his career,’’ the statement added. 

Pisano had sentenced 800 people by the time he retired in 2015 from what could have been a lifetime appointment. He said during a wide-ranging interview with NJ.com upon his retirement that the sentences he handed out wore on him, which contributed to his decision to step down from the bench. 

“You take it seriously and you’ve got somebody’s life virtually under your control, and it becomes very wearing after a long time,’’ he said at the time. 

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A New Jersey native, Pisano was the son of Salvatore Pisano, who died in 1992, and Rita W. Bergonzi Pisano, who died in 2009.  

He attended Belleville High School and graduated from Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, in 1971 before attending Seton Hall University School of Law in Newark. 

Pisano began his legal career as an assistant deputy public defender for the New Jersey Office of the Public Defender in the early 1970s and then entered private practice, representing clients in both civil and criminal matters until his appointment in 1991 as a United States magistrate judge for the District of New Jersey.

In 2000, President Bill Clinton appointed Pisano a United States district judge at the urging of New Jersey Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, who wanted Pisano to succeed Maryanne Trump Barry in the post. Barry, the sister of former President Donald Trump, had been confirmed to serve on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, one step below the U.S. Supreme Court.

During a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Lautenberg said Pisano was ideal for the job because he had already dealt with a wide variety of cases, including patent and trademark cases, environmental cleanup disputes, anti-trust and securities litigation and employment discrimination cases. 

"He has consistently impressed everyone who appears before him with his commitment to fairness and his thorough understanding of the law,'' Lautenberg said at the time. 

Among the more high-profile sentences handed out by Pisano as a federal judge was that of Eliyahu Weinstein, who was convicted of running a real estate investment fraud scheme that caused $200 million in losses. He sentenced Weinstein to 22 years in prison. Later, Pisano added another two years to Weinstein’s sentence for defrauding investors out of millions after he convinced them he had insider information on Facebook shares ahead of the company's 2012 initial public offering.

Weinstein's sentence was commuted as part of former President Donald Trump's last-minute wave of pardons and commutations.

Years earlier, in 2010, Pisano also sentenced former state Assemblyman Daniel Van Pelt of Ocean County to 41 months in prison for accepting a $10,000 bribe from Solomon Dwek, a former real estate investor turned FBI informant who pleaded guilty to federal bank fraud charges in 2009. 

Pisano returned to private practice after he retired from the bench. 

A year later, he was appointed the ethical practices officer for the International Longshoremen’s Association. In that role, Pisano was tasked with investigating allegations of organized crime influence and corruption, according to a statement issued at the time of his appointment. 

Keith Miller, who knew Pisano for two decades and owns a Newark law firm, said Pisano had worked as a mediator and arbitrator in recent years. He described him as hardworking, genuine and always fair.

"It's a very big loss. He left behind a lot of friends,'' said Miller, who owns a firm in Newark and serves as president of the Historical Society of the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.

"He was very good at resolving cases, and a very nice man, well respected. This is a big loss to the court," Miller said.

Monsy Alvarado is the immigration reporter for NorthJersey.com. To get unlimited access to the latest news about one of the hottest issues in our state and country,  please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

Email: alvarado@northjersey.com

Twitter: @monsyalvarado 

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