Adam Mitchell Beloff, 48, of Philadelphia, a Common Pleas Court judge in his first term, died of an apparent suicide Saturday, Dec. 1, at his Jersey Shore home in Ventnor.
Since his election three years ago, Judge Beloff had established himself as a hard worker who defied the usual learning curve for new jurists, said President Judge Pamela Pryor Dembe.
"Lawyers went out of their way to tell me that he was doing a terrific job," she said. He frequently volunteered for judicial projects beyond his duties in the criminal division.
"He seemed to be settling in for what would have been a long and distinguished career on the bench," Dembe said.
The South Philadelphia native, who was raised in Ventnor, set his heart on being a judge "before I knew what a lawyer was," he told the Legal Intelligencer in 2009.
He also was well-schooled in his faith, thanks to his mother, Ruth, who "really cared about Judaism and made sure her children were involved," said Cantor Ed Kulp, his teacher at Congregation Beth Judah in Ventnor and the High School of Jewish Studies of Atlantic County.
Following graduation from Atlantic City High, Judge Beloff received a bachelor's degree from George Washington University in 1988.
He got a law degree at Cooley Law School in Lansing, Mich., and landed his first job at Philadelphia's Criminal Justice Center, working for Judges Louis G. F. Retacco, Eric Lillian, and John O'Grady.
In private practice, he was a trial litigator, certified mediator, and arbitrator. He married Christine M. Hope, a criminal defense and family law attorney and a partner in their practice, Beloff & Hope.
But he harbored another ambition, said Judge Beloff's childhood friend, Municipal Court Judge Joseph C. Waters Jr. "He wanted to be a judge," Waters said. "It was something he always strove for."
When he entered the 2009 race for Common Pleas Court in the First Judicial District, Judge Beloff found himself running against his own Democratic Party.
"Nobody worked harder. He was going out every day, going everywhere. He had a way of engaging people," Waters said.
The Democrats might not have endorsed him, "but the Muslims did," Waters said, referring to the Muslim League of Voters. That's a "big accomplishment for a Jewish guy."
On the bench, Judge Beloff was "humanistic," Waters said. He recalled how his friend reached out to the Self Help Movement, of which Waters is chairman, for ways he, as a judge, could help young addicts.
Mr. Beloff volunteered as a judge for national mock trial competitions and was active in South Philadelphia, where he had been president of the South Seventh Street Redevelopment Association. He helped with the Miss Columbus Day Scholarship pageant for 30 years.
In addition to his wife, from whom he had recently separated, and his father, Stanley, Judge Beloff is survived by two brothers and two sisters.
A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 5, at Beth El Synagogue, 500 N. Jerome Ave., Margate, N.J., with interment at Rodef Shalom Cemetery, Egg Harbor Township, N.J.