Edward Re, 85, Chief Judge of Court of International Trade

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Edward Re, who died September 17 at 85, was chief judge emeritus of the U.S. Court of International Trade and author of a number of standard sources on legal remedies and equity, including “Re and Re on Remedies,” written with his son Joseph and currently in its sixth edition.

Appointed in 1968 to the Customs Court, as it was then known, by President Johnson, Re was made chief judge in 1977 and served on the federal bench until 1991.

Re was born on the island of Salina, in Italy’s Aeolian Islands, and came to America with his parents. He attended New Utrecht High School. After graduating summa cum laude from the St. John’s University School of Law in 1943, Re served in the Army Air Corps, then returned to St. John’s to teach law.

He became a full professor in 1951, the year his first book, “Foreign Confiscations in Anglo-American Law,” was published. It was this work that is credited with attracting the attention of President Kennedy, who in 1961 appointed Re chairman of the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission.

As chief judge, Re had an office in the Javits Building downtown, and he became an early and vocal opponent of Richard Serra’s sculpture “Tilted Arc,” which stood in Federal Plaza. A 2002 article about the controversy in the New Yorker credited Re with galvanizing opinion against the sculpture.

“Judge Re wrote letters to the G.S.A., and he railed ceaselessly against the ‘rusted steel wall’ that ‘desecrated’ the plaza, and in his view harbored rats, posed unspecified security risks, and prevented the plaza from being used for concerts and other frolicsome events,” the article read.

After several legal appeals by the sculptor, “Tilted Arc” was removed in 1989, eight years after it was installed.

When Re retired from the court in 1991, he returned to St. John’s, where he was named a distinguished professor and chairman of the board of the university’s Italian Culture Center. In 1997, he marked the 500th anniversary of Giovanni Caboto’s trans-Atlantic voyage with a talk at the center in which he credited the discoverer of Canada, better-known at New Utrecht and other high schools as “John Cabot,” with being one of the “founders of American pluralism.”

Re, who lived in Neponsit, is survived by his wife of 56 years, Margaret Ann Corcoran, 12 children, 23 grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

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