A Champion Of Law And The Environment: Former Ocean County Prosecutor Daniel J. Carluccio Dies At 71
Memorial service for Carluccio to be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday at the First Presbyterian Church in Toms River
It was the spring of 1985. Members of Greenpeace sailed parallel to the shore, just off Second Avenue in Ortley Beach and dropped anchor.
Divers slipped into the waves and headed towards their destination – the end of the Ciba-Geigy pipeline that jutted out into the Atlantic Ocean, only 3,500 feet from the Second Avenue beach.
Then they symbolically plugged some of the pipeline's diffuser holes with stainless steel salad bowls. When the divers came ashore, they were arrested.
Toms River attorney Daniel J. Carluccio quickly sprung into action. He organized a team of prominent well-known local attorneys to defend the Greenpeace dozen, free of charge.
Carluccio - who was later appointed Ocean County Prosecutor by Gov. James J. Florio - died on Jan. 18 after a three-and-a half-year fight with leukemia.
"He fought a valiant battle," said Ocean County Superior Court Judge Stephanie R. Wauters.
Wauters was an assistant prosecutor under Carluccio, who served from 1992 through 1997.
"I had the privilege of working for him," Wauters said. "He was a great prosecutor. He just had a magnificent personality and intellect."
Carluccio came to the Prosecutor's position with a different resume than most. He was the lead public defender in both Ocean and Burlington counties for seven years. during his career. He was also a New Jersey Supreme Court certified civil trial attorney and criminal trial attorney. He was a past president of the Ocean County Bar Association.
"He bought a different perspective into the prosecutor's office," Wauters said. "He was a people person. He truly cared about every one. He was fair with every defendant."
Carluccio, a Democrat, did not have an easy time with the all-Republican Ocean County Board of Freeholders during his five years as prosecutor. They blasted him at a December 1994 caucus meeting after Carluccio held a press conference asking for more funds for outdated cars and equipment, several clerks and an attorney to help enforce the then-fledgling Megan's law.
Freeholder John C. Bartlett Jr. back then called Carluccio "a man who likes to play games."
"This is a man who should spend more time prosecuting and less time running environmental programs at elementary schools," Bartlett said at the meeting. "He could have an 800 percent increase and he still wouldn't do his job."
"It's always unfortunate when matters of importance affecting the public's safety and well-being are obscured by personal attacks," he told me in an interview with the Asbury Park Press back then. "I stand by the budget requests, which are necessary to ensure the safety of the community, enforce Megan's Law and maintain the excellence of performance our citizens deserve."
Carluccio also tried a number of murder cases while he was prosecutor.
Carluccio and his wife Judith were founding members of the environmental group Ocean County Citizens for Clean Water, born after the Ciba-Geigy pipeline sprung a leak at Vaughn and Bay Avenues in the spring of 1984.
"Dan was active in the Ciba-Geigy movement from the very beginning," Wauters said.
Many in Toms River had no idea that Ciba discharged treated chemical waste through a pipeline that ran 10 miles from its Toms River plant all the way into the ocean off Ortley Beach, until the pipeline break.
Carluccio attended OCCCW meetings on a regular basis. Carluccio and Liston, his law firm at the time, assigned a staff attorney free of charge to assist the environmental group, Wauters said.
In the end, relentless pressure from the OCCCW and other environmental groups helped to lead to the plant's downsizing and eventual shutdown. The Ciba site was listed on the federal Environmental Protection Agency's Superfund list in the early 1980s.
Former Toms River Mayor Paul C. Brush called his friend of nearly 35 years a humanitarian.
"He was so giving of himself," Brush said yesterday. "It was all about public service, the public good. That's what Dan's life was really all about."
Carluccio later went on to become a senior partner in the Toms River law firm of Carluccio, Leone, Dimon, Doyle & Sacks. Recently, he's been the attorney for the family of Todd Wolford in their efforts to win a civil suit against the Township of Ocean following the shooting death of Wolford in a police incident last year.
He underwent agressive treatment when he was diagnosed with leukemia several years ago and was able to return to work after he went into remission, Wauters said.
But he relapsed recently and became very ill, she said.
There's a quote from Carluccio on his profile page on his law firm's website.
"If you must go to court, go with someone who is used to being there."
Carluccio's memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. on Wednesday at the Presbyterian Church of Toms River, 1070 Hooper Avenue. His family requests that in lieu of flowers, friends make a donation to the following causes: Cancer Care, Save the Children or the Southern Poverty Law Center.