Thursday, January 5, 2017

Judge Carol Higbee - RIP

Lawyers, judges, friends, and family may be forgiven for a bit of excess in eulogizing a judge.  But any encomium of New Jersey Superior Judge Carol Higbee is warranted.  The last major case I worked on - McDarby v. Merck - was the appeal of two jury verdicts in Vioxx product liability cases.  My job was principally to prepare the statement of facts.  That meant reading and tabbing, and marking up a 10,000 page transcript - plus the appendices. It took me two months.  Having read every word and reviewed every document I was astonished by Judge Higbee's competence -her mastery of the law, her calm demeanor in the face of impassioned lawyers in a high stakes bellwether trial.  - GWC

by CharlesToutant // NJ Law Journal

Appellate Division Judge Carol Higbee, perhaps best known for her former assignment presiding over high-stakes pharmaceutical litigation in New Jersey's mass tort program, died Jan. 3 at age 66.
As a Superior Court judge in Atlantic County assigned to the mass tort program, Higbee presided over hundreds of cases in which consumers accused drugmakers of covering up defects in prescription drugs such as Vioxx and Fosamax.
Chief Justice Stuart Rabner said Higbee was known for fairness and knowledge of the law.
"Judge Carol Higbee devoted herself to the administration of justice for 24 years on the bench. Her reputation for judicial scholarship and fair, evenhanded treatment of all litigants was well deserved. She will be sorely missed by her colleagues and friends in the judiciary. Her passing is truly a loss to us all," Rabner said in a statement.
Judge Carmen Messano, presiding judge for administration in the Appellate Division, praised Higbee's ability to analyze cases before the court.
"When Judge Higbee came to the Appellate Division two years ago, she brought to the panel her love of the law, her superb intellect, her easygoing demeanor and her capacity to get to the legal argument at the heart of an issue. We had such a short time with her, and we mourn her passing as a colleague and a friend," Messano said in a statement.
Atlantic County Assignment Judge Julio Mendez said the court staff  "absolutely adored" Higbee, and that she had a "phenomenal demeanor."
"She could have retired a few years ago and did not—she wanted to stay and continue to serve, to her credit. She very much enjoyed being a judge and enjoyed serving as a judge," Mendez said.
Higbee was sometimes accused of pro-plaintiff bias in the way she handled cases.
In 2012, Higbee found herself at the center of controversy when drugmaker Roche Ltd. sought her recusal from suits over alleged gastrointestinal injuries caused by acne drug Accutane. Roche said comments she made at a defense bar conference made her appear biased in favor of the plaintiff in the case. She declined to remove herself from the case. Roche challenged her decision, but the Supreme Court upheld Higbee's assignment to the case.
A service is scheduled for Friday, Jan. 6 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Parsels Funeral Home, 324 New Jersey Ave., Absecon, New Jeresy 08201; and Saturday, Jan. 7 from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., with a service to be held at 10:30am at the funeral home. Interment is to immediately follow at Holy Cross Cemetery in Mays Landing.

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