NEW YORK -- Benjamin W. Mehlman, a judge who upheld the frivolous bylaws of Ocean Beach at Fire Island, died Oct. 31 at his Manhattan home. He was 94.
In the Long Island community, people would appear before him for offenses like eating in public, and illegally beaching a raft. He once fined comedian Mel Brooks $2 for leaving his garbage can out.
''I threw myself on the mercy of the court," Brooks said. ''And there was no mercy."
Born in 1910 in Brooklyn, Judge Mehlman earned a bachelor's degree from Pennsylvania State University and a law degree in 1934.
Outside of his duties as a jurist, he was a founder and chairman of the board of governors of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and a founder of the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation.
But his most famous role was as an enforcer of the laws of Ocean Beach, which often drew audiences.
In 1977, he presided over the case of a young man who was charged with public consumption of a chocolate-chip cookie. His friend was charged with eating a crumb-cake. But the charges in the high-profile case were dismissed on grounds of inconsistent enforcement of the eating laws. Police were giving tickets for publicly eating cookies, but not licking ice cream.
Judge Mehlman leaves three daughters, Lisa Robinson, Deane Zimmerman, and Irma Gadd; two grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.