Old rivals, new fight

The public careers of Herbert Stern and Robert Del Tufo have long been intertwined, and the tension that currently exists between the two former United States Attorneys, now at opposite ends of the battle to fix the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, goes back almost thirty years. Stern is the U.S. Department of Justice’s federal monitor overseeing the state-run school, and Del Tufo is the Chairman of the UMDNJ Board of Trustees. Stern was a career prosecutor who went from law school to trying Homicide cases as an Assistant Manhattan District Attorney. (He was the DA sent to the scene when Civil Rights leader Malcolm X. Shabbaz was murdered.) He spent four years as a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Organized Crime and Racketeering Section. When Frederick Lacey became the new U.S. Attorney for New Jersey in 1969, he hired Stern as Chief Assistant. The two met a year earlier during the prosecution of Peter Weber, the powerful head of the New Jersey Operating Engineers Union. Stern was the prosecutor and Lacey was the defense attorney; Stern won. Stern was named U.S. Attorney in 1970, when Lacey became a Federal Judge. In 1974, Stern joined Lacey on the bench and was replaced by his deputy, Jonathan Goldstein, also a career prosecutor. This trio of federal prosecutors won national attention for their war on political corruption and for their aggressive prosecution of organized crime figures. While nominally Republican (they were appointed by Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford at the suggestion of GOP U.S. Senator Clifford Case), they were viewed as fairly non-political. In fact, they took town several key members of Republican Governor William Cahill’s administration; that scandal contributed toward Cahill’s defeat in the 1973 GOP primary. After Jimmy Carter defeated Gerald Ford in the 1976 presidential election, Carter replaced Goldstein with Del Tufo, a Democrat who had served as an Assistant Morris County Prosecutor and as the Director of the state Division of Criminal Justice under Brendan Byrne’s first Attorney General, William Hyland. During his three years as a federal prosecutor, the more partisan Del Tufo seemed to annoy Stern when he replaced many career federal prosecutors with lawyers that had political ties. Stern spent thirteen years as a U.S. District Court Judge and was the presiding Judge at the U.S. Court for Berlin in 1979. Martin Sheen played Stern in the movie, Judgement in Berlin, based on his 1984 book. Del Tufo sought the Democratic nomination for Governor in 1985 — he finished last in a field of five candidates. After the 1989 election, Governor Jim Florio appointed him to serve as state Attorney General.

Old rivals, new fight