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Shelter Island Reporter obituary: Elaine Jackson Stack

Elaine Jackson Stack, a retired Justice of the New York State Supreme Court and a highly respected member of the Long Island legal community, passed away Dec.19 due to complications from COVID-19.

Her death was confirmed by her daughter, Dede Stack Unger.

Judge Stack, who was known universally as Jackie, was 89, and resided in Mineola and Shelter Island. She had been a long-time resident of East Hills, N.Y., where she raised her family and had served as deputy mayor. At her death, she was Of Counsel to the Garden City law firm of Barket Epstein Kearon Aldea & LoTurco, where she was head of the Family & Divorce Mediation Group.

During a legal career that did not begin until she was almost 50, Judge Stack found success as a prosecutor, criminal defense attorney, matrimonial lawyer, appellate specialist, legal administrator and educator.

She earned her law degree from St. John’s University School of Law in 1979, a year before her youngest child graduated from high school. She joined the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office, where she rose to deputy chief of the Rackets Bureau.

Among other high-profile cases, she led the prosecution of a nationwide pedophile organization. She also prosecuted labor racketeering cases and served as a Special Assistant US Attorney in the Southern District of New York. 

After several years in private practice, where she specialized in criminal appeals, Judge Stack turned her focus to serving the legal community of Nassau and Suffolk counties. From 1991 through 1996 she was the administrator in Nassau for the statewide program that assigns private attorneys to indigent criminal defendants.

When New York authorized capital punishment in 1995, Judge Stack was appointed to an elite panel that screened attorneys to ensure that only those with the most skill and experience were appointed to death penalty cases.

She also served for eight years as a member of the disciplinary body that adjudicates complaints against attorneys in Nassau and Suffolk counties, and remained a special referee hearing appeals from that body until her death.

Judge Stack was elected to the Nassau County District Court in 1997 and was elected to the State Supreme Court in 2000. As a new member of the Court, Judge Stack was assigned to the Matrimonial Part, hearing divorce, property and custody cases. There, she earned a reputation as an empathetic and efficient courtroom manager who saw through to their conclusion cases that had spent months, and sometimes years, in legal limbo.

In recognition of her courtroom prowess, Judge Stack was appointed by the Chief Judge of the State of New York, the Hon. Judith Kaye, to two elite commissions: The Commission on the Future of Indigent Defense, in 2005, and the Special Commission on the Future of New York State Courts in 2006. She remained on the court until 2007, when she was legally required to retire due to her age.

Judge Stack was an adjunct professor of Family Law at St. John’s University School of Law and a Special Professor of Family Law at Hofstra University School of Law. She held high level positions, including dean, in the continuing legal education arm of the Nassau County Bar Association. In recognition of her decades of service, the Bar Association named its annual Moot Court competition in her honor.

Judge Stack was an enthusiastic campaigner for the We Care Fund, the principal charity of the Nassau County Bar Association, of which she was a past chair and was a board member at the time of her death.

An avid theater goer and world traveler well into her 80s, Judge Stack was a member of the Manhattan Theater Club and a mainstay of its annual theater trips to London. She also was an active supporter of the Jewish Lawyers of Nassau County and of the alumnae association of Hunter College High School in New York.

Judge Stack always regarded Shelter Island as home, an affection that lives on in her children and grandchildren. 

In addition to Ms. Unger, Judge Stack is survived by her children, Ronald Stack, Brenda Stack Freed and Claudia Stack Strobing, 15 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. She was predeceased by her husband, the noted numismatist Norman Stack, in 1992 and by her partner, Sanford L. Goldsmith, in 2015.