Justice Joseph Golia retires after a life — and love — of law

As Justice Joseph Golia retires from the bench after 30 years, another Golia may be starting her own career as a judge.

It’s the dream of many parents for their children to follow in their footsteps professionally. But with the dedication and enjoyment Golia has for his career, it’s no surprise that he inspired his daughter Donna to serve on the court.

Golia’s own parents helped lead him into law. Raised in Corona and Flushing, he didn’t grow up with a lot of money, and his parents wanted him to have a profession that made him “control [his] own future.”

Golia studied engineering and graduated from NYU in 1959, and got his J.D. from New York Law School in 1965.

He wanted to combine engineering management with his law career. But he couldn’t find a job that merged the two fields.

He eventually found a job working on the legal staff of the Hartford Insurance Group in New York from 1965 to 1968, then worked as an assistant district attorney for Queens County until 1973.

While working at the DA’s office, and only in his 30s, he had a heart attack. His near death experience made him think about job security for his wife and small children. As a judge he could still “stay in the system” and have more opportunities for promotion.

After clerking for the New York State Supreme Court, he became a New York City Civil Court judge in 1982. He was elected to the Queens County Supreme Court about five years later and was also appointed an Associate Justice for the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, in 2001. Both positions he held until his retirement.

“To be a judge is a remarkable position,” he said. “You can do a lot of good.”

Golia has had over 600 cases and has tried defendants ranging from drug cartels to NYPD officers, both civilly and criminally.

Unlike the U.S. Supreme Court, judges cannot serve for life. They must retire by the end of the year of their 76th birthday. Golia just turned 74 in May, and is ending his judicial career early.

As a retiree, Golia has plenty to keep him busy. First and foremost is his family: wife Rosalie; son Michael, 42, a radiologist; daughter Donna, 41, an attorney who was just nominated to be a judge on the New York City Civil Court; and his grandchildren, Michael, 12, Nicole, 7, Matthew, 5 and Isabella, 3.

He also has his charity work, serving on the Boy Scouts of America, Queens County Council and St. John’s University’s Italian Cultural Center, as well as his coin and stamp collections.

But even with all these activities and people to keep him busy, Golia has devoted his life to the law, and is thinking about becoming special counsel to a law firm or a judicial hearing officer.

“I can’t sit at home. I definitely want to do something,” he said.

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