Toms River Regional Schools Hall of Fame

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Judge Julio M. Fuentes

The Toms River Schools Hall of Fame is proud to induct Judge Julio M. Fuentes for his distinguished achievements in the field of law and, especially, for his appointment and confirmation to be a judge on the 3rd United States Circuit Court of Appeals, the second highest level of the judiciary, just one step from the Supreme Court. His record in school as a student, as a person, as a member of the Student Council, and as an athlete, lettering in both football and wrestling---all presaged a most promising future.

Judge Fuentes earned his B. A. degree from Southern Illinois University in 1971. In 1975, he received his J. D. from the State University of New York and was admitted to the New Jersey Bar in that same year. New York University granted him a Master's in 1981. Rutgers awarded him a second Master's in 1993. He also served from 1966 to 1969 in the Army's Military Police, most of that time with the Special Forces Group in Panama, ending his service career with a commission as a First Lieutenant.

In 1975, he began his law career as an associate with the firm of Miller, Hochman, Meyerson, and Schaeffer in Jersey City. But in 1977 he started his own law firm, Fuentes, Plant, and Velazquez, in Newark. His personal practice involved both civil and criminal legal issues.

In 1978, Judge Fuentes was appointed as a judge in the Municipal Court of Newark, and in 1980 he was licensed to practice before the United States Supreme Court. He continued as a Municipal Court judge until 1987, when he was appointed by Governor Kean to the Superior Court of New Jersey, Essex County. There he had the opportunity to experience the full range of a trial judge's responsibilities: General Equity (1997-2000), Civil Division (1992-1997), Presiding Judge (1997), Criminal Division (1990-1992), and Family Division (1987-1990).

In the year 2000, Judge Fuentes was confirmed by the Senate of the United States by a vote of 93-0 to serve as a sitting judge on the 3rd U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the nation's second highest court. His path to this important stage of his career has been a path of commitment to professional growth. Judge Fuentes is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the New Jersey Bar Association. He has served on a variety of professional task forces to study the law and lay new ground for the law to deal with complex issues, including minority concerns and the handling of drug issues in the courts. He has continued his professional education at the National Judicial College and at Columbia University. He has used his professional skills in the community, earning honors for his efforts, most recently from Newark School of the Arts, the Hispanic Bar Association, and the College of Medicine and Dentistry.

From all this wealth of experience and education, we can see Judge Fuentes as a man of quiet firmness, strong in his sense of justice, respectful of those with whom he must deal. His favorite quote, his guiding watchword for what a judge must be, comes from Socrates:

"Four things belong to a judge --
To hear courteously, to answer wisely,
To consider soberly, to decide impartially."

The one great hero in the life of Judge Fuentes is his mother, Trinidad Mercado, who brought him and his older brother from Puerto Rico to New York City, then to Lakewood, and finally to Toms River, all in the effort to give her sons a better life. To provide for her two sons, she worked sixteen-hour days: an eight-hour shift as a practical nurse in the hospital and then eight hours of private duty in the community. His respect for her courage, her strength, and her sacrifice knows no bounds, and tells us much about the Judge himself. Another strong force in the Judge's life is his family. He and his wife Olma have three daughters: Lily, who is married to a serviceman and lives in North Carolina; Karina, who is studying law in the New York University Law School; and Olma, who is an undergraduate at Williams College in Massachusetts. They are a reward for and a part of a life well lived. It is a long way from being a child on a chicken farm in Ocean County to being a judge on the United States Circuit Court of Appeals. Respect is due the man who has made that journey.


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