The Hofstra Law community is saddened by the passing of J. Herbie DiFonzo, Professor Emeritus of Law and a Center for Children, Families and the Law Fellow.
“Herbie was an absolute joy to work with,” said Judge A. Gail Prudenti, dean. “He was an outstanding teacher and scholar, and a caring and compassionate colleague, mentor and friend (as well as an unwavering supporter of the New York Mets). He was also admired by his students, who named him Professor of the Year in 2017.”
Professor DiFonzo had a passion for teaching and helping families in crisis. Though he retired just this past spring, he was still actively working with Hofstra Law’s Center for Children, Families and the Law as a Fellow.
He had won numerous awards for his teaching and writing. Earlier this year, he was recognized with the Association of Family & Conciliation Courts’ Tim Salius President’s Award, which is presented annually to an AFCC member who has provided exemplary service to the association.
Along with his beloved late wife, Ruth, who was his longtime collaborator, he co-authored the book Intimate Associations: The Law and Culture of American Families in 2013.
Born in Buenos Aires and raised in New York City, Professor DiFonzo joined Hofstra Law in 1995, teaching courses in family law, civil procedure and alternatives to litigation. During his years at Hofstra Law, he served in many roles, including Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Director of the Criminal Justice Clinic, and Director of the LL.M. Program in Family Law.
He received a B.S in Sociology from St. Joseph’s College in Philadelphia, and J.D., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Virginia. Following graduation from law school, he served as an Attorney General’s Honors Law Graduate at the U.S. Department of Justice.
He had a wide-ranging two decades of law practice before becoming a full-time professor, including stints as a federal prosecutor and as a litigator in the areas of family law, criminal defense, negligence, and professional malpractice. In all, he conducted over 30 jury trials and several dozen appeals, including two successful co-authored merits briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court.
Professor DiFonzo also served as a Co-Reporter for two national family law projects: the Shared Parenting Project, sponsored by the Association of Families & Conciliation Courts (with Professor Marsha Kline Pruett), and the Family Law Education Reform (FLER) Project, a national effort to improve family law teaching, for which he and Professor Mary E. O’Connell received the 2006 Stanley Cohen Distinguished Research Award.
He is survived by his son, Drew. An announcement of a formal memorial by the Law School will follow.