Revered former 'Judge Biff,' known for his fairness and sense of humor, is dead at 77

Vincent A. Bifferato Sr., a legendary former Delaware superior court judge known for his fairness, his courtroom presence, his courtesy and his sense of humor during more than 30 years on the bench, has died of esophageal cancer. He was 77 years old.

Remembered for his “unerring sense of right and wrong” by prosecutor Kathleen Jennings and as “a giant in our legal community” who was “very smart, very direct, fair to all sides” by public defender Brendan O’Neill, the former “Judge Biff” was also a dedicated family man and a great friend, those who knew him said. A former state lawmaker, Bifferato spent his final years in the profession in private practice with his sons after leaving the bench in 2000, reports the News Journal.

“Everyone respected and admired him,” said Judge Ferris Wharton, who frequently appeared before Bifferato in years past while working as a prosecutor and public defender.

Bifferato was good at resolving issues in a practical way, “without putting on airs,” Wharton told the newspaper. Judge Jerome O. Herlihy praised the late jurist’s “great sense of humor” and command of his courtroom.

On at least two occasions, when Bifferato took issue with the manner in which lawyers conducted himself, he told the court about a “hearing defect” that prevented him from listening to lawyers who did not stand to make objections or wore topsiders.

Richard Gebelein, a retired superior court judge who both served with Bifferato on the bench and worked at his law firm, described Bifferato as a close friend. “What I will miss most of all is being able to talk with him about anything and everything,” Gebelein said. “It is hard to describe when you have a close personal friend like that. It is hard to accept they are not there. I will miss him terribly.”

Survivors include Bifferato’s wife, three children and their spouses, six grandchildren and a sister. A Mass of Christian burial is scheduled at 10 a.m. on Wednesday at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church, followed by a private interment. Instead of flowers, the family asks that mourners consider donations to the Sunday Breakfast Mission or the Emmanuel Dining Room of the Ministry of Caring.

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