Retired State Supreme Court Justice Frank A. Sedita Jr. died Sunday in Sisters Hospital after a brief illness. He was 78.
Judge Sedita, a member of one of the area’s most prominent political families, was the son of three-term Buffalo Mayor Frank A. Sedita and the father of Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III.
As Buffalo Housing Court Judge in 1992-93, he cracked down on the city’s slumlords, imposing a record total of fines and sending several of them to jail, including then-Common Council Member Norman M. Bakos of the Lovejoy District.
He became a State Supreme Court justice in 1994, completed a 10-year term and served three additional two-year extensions on senior status until he reached the mandatory retirement age of 76.
In retirement, he joined Counsel Financial Services, headed by his close friend, former Erie County Surrogate Joseph S. Mattina.
A graduate of Buffalo public schools, he attended Buffalo State Teachers College and was a summa cum laude graduate of Canisius College, where he was known for his diligence at taking notes. He earned a law degree from the University of Buffalo and was admitted to the bar in 1961.
He was in private practice, specializing in trial, matrimonial and family law until 1968, when he scored 99 on a civil service test and was named Buffalo assistant corporation counsel. In 1970, he was appointed senior deputy corporation counsel, serving until 1976.
Named associate City Court judge in 1976, he won election that fall and served until 1980, when he was elected Erie County Family Court judge. While in Family Court, he was assigned for two years as an acting justice of State Supreme Court.
In 1990, he made an unusual move and ran unopposed for chief City Court judge, which meant taking a pay cut.
When nobody else wanted to replace a departing Housing Court judge in 1992, he named himself to the post and quickly earned acclaim for his hard line with slumlords. He toured dilapidated buildings, imposed deadlines for repairs and increased the fines on delinquent property owners. He became known as “Maximum Frank.”
He also proposed several housing reforms and consolidated the landlord-tenant part of City Court with Housing Court in 1993.
Judge Sedita received numerous honors for his work in Housing Court. He was a Buffalo News Outstanding Citizen in 1992 and received the Buffalo Urban League Stewardship Award in 1993 and the West Side Business Association’s Citizen of the Year Award in 1994.
Although he could be a tough judge, he also was known for his generosity and his charm.
“He was a very friendly, gregarious guy,” one of his longtime friends remarked Sunday.
“He was known all over town.”
In addition to his son, survivors include his wife of 52 years, Marilyn Hemstock Sedita.
Funeral arrangements will be announced.