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When Thomas LaConte ’70 was a student at Lafayette, he often looked to the words engraved on a pedestal of a statue of the institution’s namesake, the Marquis de Lafayette, for reassurance that the school was preparing him to succeed in the world beyond the campus walls.

Thirty-five years have passed since LaConte graduated as a history major, but the quotation — “I read, I study, I examine, I listen, I reflect, and out of all of this I try to form an idea into which I put as much common sense as I can” — is just as, if not more, meaningful today.

In a speech he gave last year while taking the oath as a superior court judge to the New Jersey Civil Court, LaConte said the words serve as an inspiration and guide in his new role.

But Lafayette’s influence on LaConte in pursuing a career in law, initially as a private corporate and commercial trial attorney, then as the municipal attorney in North Caldwell, and now as a judge, went beyond finding meaning in a few words.

“The history department we had at Lafayette between 1966 and 1970 was absolutely terrific,” LaConte says. “Professors [Richard] Welch, [George] Heath, [Albert] Gendebien [’34] — they were terrific professors. I remember a young Professor [Robert] Weiner, who was a rookie professor my senior year, and I am delighted to see he’s still there and is, in fact, a favorite professor of my own son.”

“I feel I got an outstanding education at Lafayette. If I didn’t feel that way, my daughter and son would not have attended that institution,” he adds. “I spent four years honing my ability to analyze problems and to think critically and write clearly and express myself.”

Few jobs require a command of those skills as much as that of a judge.

“Ever since I became a lawyer, I have aspired to be one of the people who decides cases as opposed to advocating how a case should be decided,” LaConte says. “Superior court judges are a fortunate group of people whose only function is to disperse justice, not to make a product or sell anything, but our entire job is to decide cases justly.”

And the diversity of cases he hears as a civil court judge provide him a ever-changing forum to exercise his perception of justice

“The civil court deals with all sorts of litigation between individuals, from auto accidents to breach of contract cases,” LaConte says. “One of the expressions I use is ‘if human beings can do it, we can litigate over it’.”

LaConte received the Professional Lawyer of the Year Award from the state Commission on Professionalism in the Law in 1998. He received his law degree from Rutgers University School of Law. He lives in Wayne with his wife Jo Ann.

Categorized in: Alumni Profiles