Albert DeRobbio, chief judge in R.I.
PROVIDENCE - Albert E. DeRobbio, the longtime chief judge of Rhode Island's District Court who oversaw the reorganization of the problem-plagued traffic tribunal, died yesterday at his home in Cranston. He was 79.
Judge DeRobbio, who was at work Friday, had suffered from diabetes. No cause of death had been determined.
He had been chief judge since 1987, overseeing the District Court system and its judges. He had also been a Superior Court judge, a prosecutor who served as chief of the criminal division in the attorney general's office, and legal counsel in the state Department of Social and Rehabilitative Services.
The push to revamp the state's traffic court began in January 1998 amid concern the court had a backlog of cases and millions of dollars in uncollected fines. The traffic tribunal was revamped in 1999 and placed under Judge DeRobbio's control.
Last year, he weighed in after lawmakers passed a botched cost-cutting move that placed 17-year-old offenders in adult criminal court. The law was repealed later, but legislators didn't make it retroactive, leaving hundreds of young defendants in limbo.
Judge DeRobbio agreed to transfer pending misdemeanor cases to Family Court and give those who had already entered pleas to misdemeanors the option of transferring their cases to Family Court. The state Supreme Court later ruled that 17-year-olds should have their cases first sent to Family Court.
Judge DeRobbio, an Army veteran, graduated from Boston College and received his law degree from Boston University. He leaves his wife, Barbara; five children; and 13 grandchildren.
His death came after Family Court Judge Gilbert Rocha died Friday at age 77. He served as a state senator from 1959 to 1966 and helped establish Family Court in 1961. He was appointed a District judge in 1993 and to the Family Court two years later.
"Both men were great leaders and hard workers, and shared our vision for increasing access to justice and making our courts more user-friendly," Supreme Court Chief Justice Frank Williams said in a written statement yesterday.