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Arthur Minuskin

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Ruled on a variety of controversial cases

Arthur Minuskin of Fair Lawn, who ruled on hot-button issues during two decades on the state Superior Court bench, died Tuesday, seven days before his 89th birthday.

A Paterson native, Mr. Judge Minuskin opened a law practice in the early 1950s, sharing a building on Fair Lawn's River Road with his father, an insurance salesman. He served as Fair Lawn's assistant borough attorney, borough attorney and magistrate. He rose to a Superior Court judgeship in 1977.

Mr. Judge Minuskin didn't wait long for a headline-grabbing case. On Dec. 30, 1977, he ruled that 78-year-old Catherine Suenram of Hawthorne had the constitutional right to be given Llaetrile, a controversial substance derived from apricot pits. It was the second court order in New Jersey allowing Llaetrile to be administered to a cancer patient.

Mr. Judge Minuskin's ruling was a restraining order that prohibited The Valley Hospital of Ridgewood from interfering with the Llaetrile treatment by Suenram's personal physician. The judge said the treatment was "in the best interests of the patient, even if that welfare be only psychological."

Suenram received several Llaetrile treatments. She died Jan. 5, 1978, the day Llaetrile received final legislative approval in New Jersey. Gov. Brendan T. Byrne signed the measure legalizing the drug the following week.

In 1981, in the closely watched divorce matter Minkin v. Minkin, Mr. Judge Minuskin held that the Jewish marriage contract known as the ketubah ital cq was a civil, not a religious, document and ordered the husband to obtain a get ital cq, the Jewish divorce decree that would allow the wife to remarry.

And in 2003, an appeals court affirmed Mr. Judge Minuskin's ruling that Newark could sue gun manufacturers for damages stemming from gun violence.

But it was a 1993 DWI case Mr. Judge Minuskin handled that landed his name in the celebrity pages. The judge sentenced the rhythm-and-blues legend Wilson Pickett to the maximum 364 days in jail for mowing down an elderly pedestrian in Englewood.

Mr. Judge Minuskin's son Alan recalled that after the sentencing, his father's court officer, a Pickett fan, asked the singer to autograph a CD. "My dad thought that was less than amusing," Alan Minuskin said.

Mr. Judge Minuskin sat in the Bergen County Courthouse for much of his judicial career. After retiring at 70, he remained active as a mediator and a special master, and also heard cases in Superior Court in Essex County.

Frank Lucianna, 90, dean of trial lawyers in Bergen County, said Thursday that Mr. Judge Minuskin was a "wonderful judge who never veered from the fact that he was there to see justice done."

Arthur Minuskin graduated near the top of Eastside High School's Class of 1942 and formed a bond with its greatest athlete, Larry Doby, who would go on to a Hall of Fame baseball career.

Mr. Judge Minuskin and Doby six weeks apart in age stayed lifelong friends. When Doby came out of retirement to play pro ball in Japan, Mr. Judge Minuskin negotiated the contract.

The day after Doby died in 2003, Mr. Judge Minuskin recalled his pride in his pal for becoming the second black player, after Jackie Robinson, to make the Mmajor Lleagues.

"It was a feeling that one of ours, a kid from Paterson, had made it," he told The Record.

Mr. Judge Minuskin, an Army Air Forces veteran of World War II and a Harvard Law School graduate, is survived by his wife, Jacqueline; his children, Alan Minuskin of Newton, Mass., Marcia Minuskin of Fair Lawn and Jeffrey Minuskin of Easton, Mass., and four grandchildren. His first wife, Barbara, died in 1997.

Services were held Thursday |at Robert Schoem's Menorah Chapel, Paramus.

Published in The Record on Jan. 25, 2013
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