Richard J. Daronco
|Richard J. Daronco|
|Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York|
May 7, 1987 – May 21, 1988
|Appointed by||Ronald Reagan|
|Preceded by||Lee P. Gagliardi|
|Succeeded by||Louis Freeh|
|Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of New York|
|Appointed by||Hugh Carey|
|Born||Richard Joseph Daronco
August 1, 1931
New York, New York
|Died||May 21, 1988
Pelham, New York
|Spouse(s)||Joan Daronco (m. 1957)|
|Residence||Pelham, New York, U.S.|
|Alma mater||Providence College
Albany Law School
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Years of service||1956-1958|
Richard Joseph Daronco (August 1, 1931 – May 21, 1988) was an American judge and lawyer from New York, a lifelong resident of Pelham. He served as a New York State judge for 17 years and as a federal judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York for one year. On May 21, 1988, he was assassinated, becoming one of three federal judges to be intentionally killed in the line of judicial service in the twentieth century.
Early life & education
Born in New York, New York, Daronco was the son of a tile setter who emigrated from Italy. He attended the New York Military Academy in Cornwall, NY before receiving a Bachelor of Arts from Providence College in 1953. He received an LL.B. from Albany Law School in 1956.
In 1971, Daronco began his judicial career with an appointment by Governor Nelson Rockefeller as Judge of the New York Family Court for Westchester County, on which he served until 1974. He then became Judge of the Westchester County Court from 1974 to 1979, and served as an administrative judge for one year. Daronco was appointed by Governor Hugh Carey as a Justice of the New York State Supreme Court where he served from 1979 to 1987 and in 1983 became Deputy Chief Administrative Judge of courts outside New York City. In this capacity, he administered the 450 courts of Upstate New York.
He was also an adjunct professor at Pace University School of Law from 1983 to 1988. Additionally, he taught as an adjunct professor at Fordham University School of Law from 1983 to 1988 and as an adjunct professor at Iona College.
On February 2, 1987, upon the recommendation of Senator Alfonse D'Amato, Daronco was nominated for appointment by President Ronald Reagan to a seat on the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York vacated by Lee P. Gagliardi. Daronco was confirmed by the United States Senate on May 7, 1987, and received his commission the same day.
Richard Daronco, a lifelong resident of Pelham, was known as a "family man" and a "churchgoer" who was devout in his Catholic faith. He married Joan O'Rourke in 1957 and had five children. His brother, Paul, served as the Mayor of Pelham.
In April 1988, Judge Daronco presided over a bench trial in a sex discrimination and sexual harassment case, in which the plaintiff, Carolee Koster, alleged she was wrongfully passed over for promotion and eventually terminated by her employer. She opted to represent herself pro se after being previously represented by three different attorneys, the last of whom withdrew from the case. She had previously rejected a monetary settlement in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, seeking a much larger sum of $2.5 million.
Daronco was the third judge to preside over this case that had already spanned seven years of litigation and delays. On May 19, 1988, Daronco issued a 39-page written decision at the conclusion of the 10-day trial holding in the defendant employer's favor and dismissed the case. He wrote in his decision that Ms. Koster's claim had not a "scintilla of credible evidence."
One day later, Charles L. Koster, a retired mounted New York City police officer and the father of the unsuccessful plaintiff - who himself had been asked to leave the courtroom several times through the course of the trial for making disruptive noises and expressions - drove to Judge Daronco's neighborhood in the typically tranquil suburb of Pelham around 2 p.m. from his home in Bath, Pennsylvania. He stayed the night at an unknown location.
The following day, May 21, Koster parked several blocks away from Daronco's home, near Holy Sepulchre Cemetery. He walked to Daronco's house and approached the judge while he was doing yard work in his home garden. Seconds later, Koster fired four shots at Judge Daronco from a .38 caliber revolver. Daronco, though wounded by at least three shots, one of which had caused major bleeding from striking a femoral artery of the thigh, attempted to escape through his kitchen door. His neighbor heard Daronco shout "I need help." As his wife, daughter, and a friend remained in another part of the house, Daronco tried to barricade himself in his study where he collapsed and died. Hearing the disturbance, his wife, Joan, discovered the bloody scene and held closed the kitchen door. Koster, attempting to chase Daronco into the kitchen, pushed through the door held closed by Mrs. Daronco and committed suicide by a fatal shot to the head. Mrs. Daronco ran into the middle of Corona Avenue to call for help, though Richard Daronco had already died.
The murder of Richard Daronco was a shock to the low-crime and quiet community of Pelham. His funeral was held at St. Catherine's Roman Catholic Church in Pelham with many in attendance.
In his memory, the Westchester County Courthouse in White Plains, where Daronco had worked for many years as a state court judge, was later renamed the Richard J. Daronco Westchester County Courhouse. The municipal building adjacent to the town hall of Pelham, Daronco's hometown, was also renamed the Richard J. Daronco Town House in his honor. Outside the front entrance is mounted a plaque which reads:
The Richard J. Daronco Town HouseOctober 8, 1991
Dedicated with pride and affection
to the memory of the United States District Court Judge
Richard J. Daronco
For his integrity and wisdom as a jurist
For his dedication and service to his country and community
For his deep devotion to his faith
For this we will remember
By Resolution of Pelham Town Council
- List of United States federal judges killed in office
- List of federal judges appointed by Ronald Reagan
- U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York
- New York State Supreme Court
- Pelham, New York
- Westchester County, New York
- Richard J. Daronco at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.
- Richard Daronco. Ballotpedia
- Federal Judge Slain by a Gunman in Westchester. Robert D. McFadden. May 22, 1988. New York Times
- Slain Judge Ruled Against His Killer's Daughter. Robert D. McFadden. May 23, 1988. New York Times
- Judge's Killing Prompts a Challenge. Kate McKenna. July 22, 1990. New York Times
- Crime History: Former NYPD officer kills judge over lawsuit. Scott McCabe. May 20, 2012. Washington Examiner
- Judges Targeted Fast Facts. CNN Library. April 22, 2015. CNN
- 7-Year-Old Case Led to Judge's Murder. John M. Doyle. May 23, 1988. Associated Press
- FBI Says Few Loose Ends Remain in Shooting Case.Valerie Berton. May 24, 1988. The Morning Call
- Funeral Service for Slain Judge. May 26, 1988. New York Times
- Federal Judge Shot at Home. May 21, 1988. Jim Fitzgerald. Associated Press
- H.R. 3134. ENR—For the relief of Mrs. Joan Daronco. 101st Congress. Library of Congress
- House Report 110-059. Judicial Disclosure Responsibility Act. 110th Congress. Committee Reports. Library of Congress
- Murdered Judges: Of the 20th Century and Other Mysterious Deaths. Susan P. Baker. Susan Baker, 2011. ISBN 161842078X. EAN 9781618420787
Lee Parsons Gagliardi
|Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York