UPDATE (2/6): Funeral services for Judge Wright will be held on Thursday, February 12, at the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens, 771 Somerset Street in Somerset.
The wake will be from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., with the funeral to follow immediately thereafter.
In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that donations be made to the New Brunswick Education Association, 83 Morris Street, New Brunswick, NJ.
NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ–A well-liked judge who was among the most powerful African-American officials in the city government has died, one year after retiring from the bench.
Officials at the Clark County Coroner’s Office confirmed that a hospital in the Las Vegas area reported E. Ronald Wright’s death over the weekend due “cardiopulminary arrest with unknown etiology,” meaning cardiac arrest for unknown reasons.
But the news spread far and wide on social media on Monday, February 2, with mourners expressing condolences to Wright’s family and friends.
“You did not let your title keep you from ‘Keeping it Real,'” wrote one mourner on Facebook.
“We had fun times as children on Ward St. and up on Reservoir Ave. Will miss all his advice as adults,” wrote another.
Wright was more than just a municipal judge.
He pariticpated in groundbreaking legal cases, served in the army reserve, and represented the likes of Johnson & Johnson, the ABC television network, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Commission (FDIC).
“Judge Wright’s tenure as a public servant was defined by his professionalism and dedication to justice,” said the man who appointed him, Mayor James Cahill.
“For the past seven years he oversaw the City of New Brunswick’s Municipal Court system with a fair and balanced hand and was respected by many of his colleagues,” said Cahill. “He was also a good and honest man who I was fortunate enough to call a friend. He will be missed.”
Wright was also the Chief Judge in North Brunswick, and also ran courtrooms in Bound Brook and Franklin Township. During the 1970’s and 1980’s he served as a municipal prosecutor in New Brunswick.
Bill Hamilton, the city’s longtime attorney, also had kind words to say about Wright, who went by the nickname “Ronnie.”
“Ronnie was a fine, confident and honorable judge over many, many years,” said Hamilton. “He was also a very good lawyer and a very good friend.”
Wright grew up in New Brunswick, graduating from New Brunswick High School in 1965, and from Waynesburg State University in Pennsylvania four years later.
He studied law at Rutgers-Newark and ended up working at the Middlesex County Legal Services Corporation, focusing on law reform and bankruptcy work.
“He researched and assisted in preparing a brief in a case [State v. DeBonis] that ultimately resulted in indigent defendants being allowed to make time payments in Municipal Courts,” according to a write-up by the Middlesex County Bar Association, which honored him with a lifetime achievement award last year.
After leaving the MCLSC, Wright worked as an attorney at the American Broadcasting Company, where his duties including crafting the contracts for Geraldo Rivera and Barbara Walters.
According to the Bar Association, one of his first clients was the Middlesex County Comprehensive Employment and Training Administration (MCCETA).
“MCCETA was able to secure millions of dollars from the Federal Government for many years. These funds were used to operate numerous training programs for unemployed/underemployed individuals and place them in the job market,” reads the write-up.
“While working for MCCETA Ron was instrumental in helping to secure these federal funds, one year bringing in over $29m to the county.”
In September 1998, Wright was appointed to the bench in New Brunswick, and by January 2000, North Brunswick hired him as that town’s Chief Judge as well. He retired from four different municipal judgeships in January 2014.
“As a municipal court judge in four vicinages since 1998, and in two vicinages as Chief Judge, I have probably heard every conceivable type of dispute/case,” reads his profile on LinkedIn.
His law practice was originally on Paterson Street, but the building was sold and demolished to make way for an extension of Kirkpatrick Street, and the new Wellness Plaza building.
After that, Wright relocated his firm, known as “The Wright Firm” to 93 Bayard Street.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate, a community organizer, and a former independent candidate for mayor of New Brunswick.