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Respected former federal appeals judge with Carnegie roots dies

| Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2014, 12:24 p.m.
Retired federal appeals Judge Ruggero J. Aldisert, 95, a Carnegie native, died Sunday, Dec. 28, 2014.
Retired federal appeals Judge Ruggero J. Aldisert, 95, a Carnegie native, died Sunday, Dec. 28, 2014.

Found squatting in the rarely used chambers of a tax judge while waiting for his own chambers, newly appointed federal appeals Judge Ruggero Aldisert called upon his Marine skills when the angry tax judge showed up and became abusive toward Aldisert's secretary.

“The next thing I knew, the judge came striding out of his chambers and, let's say, escorted (the tax judge) out of the building,” said Robert Cindrich, who was one of Aldisert's first law clerks after President Lyndon Johnson appointed Aldisert to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 1968.

Judge Ruggero J. Aldisert of Santa Barbara, Calif., a Carnegie native, died Sunday, Dec. 28, 2014, a court spokeswoman said. He was 95. His family is arranging burial at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, but funeral or memorial service arrangements have not been announced.

Judge Aldisert was in his second year at the University of Pittsburgh Law School when he left and joined the Marines, rising to the rank of major while fighting in the Pacific.

He returned to finish law school and become a notable legal scholar and jurist.

“It's one of those remarkable American stories,” Cindrich said. “My career, my life was really shaped by all of his influence.”

Robert Aldisert, the judge's oldest son and a lawyer in Portland, Ore., said his father gave him great advice in his career but didn't push him to become a lawyer.

“He always supported what his kids' dreams were,” he said. “He would ask the right questions and never really interject what he thought we should be doing or wanting.”

His father had only one requirement as they pursued their dreams, he said.

“He just asked that we do our best at it,” Robert Aldisert said.

Because Judge Aldisert had the same birthday as the Marine Corps, his family sang the Marine Corps Hymn as well as “Happy Birthday” during their celebrations. He visited Veterans of Foreign Wars posts to mark the anniversary with other veterans.

Being a Marine was “probably his principal self-identity,” his son said.

He taught at the University of Pittsburgh for 20 years and served on the university's board. He took great pride in being a first-generation Italian-American, his son said. Judge Aldisert was national president of the Order Italian Sons and Daughters of America from 1954 until he resigned in 1968 to become a federal judge.

Friends and colleagues said he combined the qualities of a Marine and an academic.

“There will never be another Rugi Aldisert,” said U.S. Circuit Judge D. Michael Fisher. “He was a scholar and a very practical man at the same time.”

Known for his well-reasoned opinions, Aldisert also wrote several books that gave him a national reputation in the areas of advocacy, or how lawyers represent clients, and adjudication, or how judges go about deciding cases.

“He was a giant on our court, the 3rd Circuit, and beyond,” U.S. Circuit Judge Thomas Hardiman said. “He was nationally recognized for his scholarship, not only in his opinions, but in the books he wrote.”

Judge Aldisert retired in August after 46 years on the bench to pursue a lifelong dream of writing novels and published one, “Almost the Truth: A Novel of the Forties and the Sixties,” this year.

He stressed to colleagues the importance of “disagreeing without being disagreeable” and worked hard to pass on the history and traditions of the court to new judges, Judge Hardiman said.

“He loved teaching, and he treasured the collegiality of the 3rd Circuit,” he said.

Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-325-4301 or bbowling@tribweb.com.

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