Obituary: Joseph A. Hudock / Retired Superior Court judge respected for integrity
Nov. 21, 1937 — Dec. 14, 2016
December 20, 2016 12:00 AM
Judge Joseph A. Hudock
By Torsten Ove / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Joseph Hudock, a judge respected for his integrity and even temper on the bench in Westmoreland County and during his 18-year career on the state Superior Court, died Dec. 14.
He was 79 and lived in Unity.
A Greensburg native, Judge Hudock was a common pleas judge in Westmoreland County for a dozen years starting in 1977. After a grassroots campaign in 1989, he was elected to the Superior Court and served until his retirement in 2007.
He was held in high regard for his honesty.
When he was elected to Common Pleas Court, there had been a tradition of lawyers sending gifts to judges' chambers - whiskey, flowers, candy. It smacked of currying favor. Judge Hudock wanted no part of it.
"He put an end to that," said his son, Daniel Hudock, an attorney in Greensburg. "He said 'I don't want any gifts.' He didn't want to take anything from anyone."
The judges also used to have regular lunches, paid for by the county.
Judge Hudock didn't like that, either. He started paying for his own lunch.
Later, as a Superior Court judge, he got a car allowance. Other judges rented top-end cars like Cadillacs. Judge Hudock drove a Mercury Sable.
"He was always high-minded," said Daniel Hudock.
Like any long-time trial judge, Judge Hudock handled his share of newsworthy cases in the 1970s and 80s. Probably the most infamous was the trial of John Lesko, who went on a "kill for thrill" murder rampage with Michael Travaglia in killing four people in December 1979 and January 1980. Judge Hudock presided over the trial of Lesko for one of those killings, the murder of Marlene Sue Newcomer, 26, and gave Lesko life in prison.
Judge Hudock handled the trial and most of his other cases with the same no-nonsense demeanor he brought to every aspect of his life.
Outside of court, he was a man of strong opinions and didn't hide them. In his obituary, his family wrote that he believed that "blue jeans, cell phones and that noise people call 'rock-and-roll music' were abominations of western civilization."
Born in 1937, Judge Hudock was the son of Andrew Hudock, a state police major and a former mayor of Greensburg, and Rebecca Burke Hudock.
He graduated from St. Vincent Prep in 1955 and from Saint Vincent College in 1959.
After graduating from Duquesne University's law school in 1962, he enlisted in the Navy during the Vietnam War and served in Japan and California in the Judge Advocate General Corps.
When he came home, he started his law career in the office of local attorney Avra Pershing and later opened a law office with a friend and fellow Navy veteran, John Driscoll, who also became a judge.
After his 12 years on the Westmoreland County bench, Judge Hudock decided to run for Superior Court. He criss-crossed the state during his campaign, speaking at every venue he could find, and spent only $42,000. His win surprised many observers who did not think he had any heft outside of his home county.
"It was a long-shot," said his son.
Once on the Superior Court, he settled in to a more relaxed life. He quit smoking and tried to take better care of his health. In an interview with the Tribune-Review in 2012, he said Common Pleas Court was "so hectic day in and day out" but that the appellate court afforded him “time to think."
He served on Superior Court for 18 years.
Besides his son, Judge Hudock is survived by his wife of 51 years, Rita, and three other children: Joe Hudock Jr. of Gibsonia, Dr. Ann Hudock of Maryland and Mary Piper of Delmont.
A funeral mass was held Monday at Saint Vincent Basilica, Latrobe.
Torsten Ove: email@example.com or 412-944-6551