Ivelisse Torres, first career Public Defender to head the agency, passes away
The New Jersey Office of the Public Defender is saddened to announce the passing of Public Defender Ivelisse Torres on Sunday, November 12, after a long illness.
Ms. Torres was sworn in as New Jersey Public Defender on July 25, 1997, succeeding Susan Reisner. Ms. Torres was the first career Public Defender to ascend to the top post in the agency, which was created in 1967. She began her career as a law guardian attorney and senior trial attorney in the Public Defender Camden County Regional Office in 1979. After four years in that office and three and one-half years as trial counsel in the Union County Regional Office, she transferred to the Ocean County Regional Office in 1987.
was First Assistant Deputy Public Defender in the Ocean County office
for four years before being named Deputy Public Defender in charge of
that region in March 1993. From there, she was named New Jersey Public
Defender by Governor Christine Todd Whitman in 1997.
She also spearheaded a move to provide more social work services to juvenile defendants, creating specialized units in Camden and Monmouth Counties to help prevent repeat offenses by getting those clients the help they need to straighten out their lives.
"Ivy was a dedicated public servant who never lost sight of the fact that it is an honor and a privilege to hold that title," First Assistant Public Defender Joel Harris said. "She battled valiantly to remain a vital part of this organization in the face of obstacles that would cause many people to give up. I feel a tremendous sense of loss, not only of a trusted and valued co-worker, but the loss of a good friend who will be impossible to replace."
Assistant Public Defender Peter Garcia recalled Ms. Torres as a compassionate woman who "always made you feel comfortable and at ease with her."
"We met while we were both serving in the Hispanic Bar Association, and what always struck me about Ivy was that when you talked to her or she made a comment, you could tell she was thinking about what was best for somebody else - her clients or the people who worked for her. She had to be the kindest person I met in my whole life."
Supreme Court Justice Virginia Long, who officiated at Ms. Torres wedding ceremony, recalled her as "a good lawyer, a good mother, a good wife, a good friend, an overall good person with all the qualities you could ever ask for in a public official and a private citizen."
"I married her and shes frozen in my memory walking down that aisle," Justice Long said. "And what Ill remember is that she was just as beautiful inside as she was outside"
Prior to her service in the Office of the Public Defender, Ms. Torres was legal counsel for the Puerto Rican Legal Committee Inc., in Newark.
Born in New York City on October 10, 1952, Ms. Torres attended public schools in the city and in Puerto Rico. She was graduated from Hunter College of the City University of New York with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1973, and earned her Juris Doctorate degree from Rutgers University-Newark School of Law in 1977. She also held a Masters Degree with a concentration in labor studies from Long Island University.
Ms. Torres was a trustee of the Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey and an active member of various county bar associations and Supreme Court committees. She received numerous awards honoring her commitment to public service, including the 1997 Rutgers Law School Fannie Besser Award in Public Service and the 1998 Professional Lawyer of the Year award from the New Jersey Bar Association. She most recently was honored by the Latino American Committee of Monmouth County, Inc., in October.
Ms. Torres was a resident of Shrewsbury, Monmouth County. She is survived by her husband, David P. Corrigan, an attorney; their daughter, Caitlin; her parents, Drs. Estanislao and Carmen Torres of West Long Branch; her mother- and father-in-law, John and Louise Corrigan of Florida; and a brother, Dr. Abel Torres and his wife, Vilma, of Massachusetts.
A wake will be held Wednesday, November 15, from 2 to 4 p.m. and from 7 to 9 p.m. at the John Day Funeral Home, Red Bank, N.J. A Memorial Service will be held Thursday, November 16, beginning at 3 p.m. at the Church of the Nativity, Ridge Road, Fair Haven, N.J. Memorial contributions may be made to the American Cancer Society, earmarked for pancreatic cancer research, in Ms. Torres name.