MANAGING EDITOR | HACKENSACK CHRONICLE
When interviewed in his Hackensack office, Lucianna, 88, said, "I never knew a criminal lawyer who got an award from the state for being the professional lawyer of the year or from the county for lifetime achievement," referring to past accolades. "It's the idea that we're operating on the outskirts of the law, which isn't true."
The Bergen County Bar Foundation became the latest organization to recognize Lucianna as one of New Jersey's most respected legal insiders on Sept. 19, when it gave him its Lawyer Achievement Award, a public recognition of his lifetime's work.
"I really treasure this award, because this came genuinely from people who know me and know this office," Lucianna said, who has received 14 different awards for his work over the years from various organizations, including the Urban League, the Bergen County Bar Association and Fordham University Law School, his alma mater. "It means a lot to me, and I'm very thankful for it."
Frank Carbonetti, a partner with Lucianna's firm who has been by his mentor's side for 12 years, spoke at the award ceremony in Mahwah about what knowing and working with Lucianna has meant to him and others.
"When you honor someone for a lawyer achievement award, it's a very vague award. How does one define achievement?" Carbonetti said. "You could go into all of the amazing cases that he's had and still has. His battles that he's had with judges and prosecutors have become part of Bergen County's legal lore. What I think Frank Lucianna has done is written the survival guide for lawyers on how to make it is this business."
For Carbonetti, Lucianna's greatest lesson can be crystallized in one word.
"Happiness is the key word," Carbonetti said. "It's a hard word to find when you talk about lawyers. While working like a maniac for 60 years, he's been able to stay married to same woman, Dolores, for 56 years. They raised three successful children. He hasn't been indicted. He hasn't been disbarred. He hasn't been suspended."
Carbonetti also noted other physical and spiritual factors that helped Lucianna avoid potential personal and ethical pitfalls and kept him going for decades.
"He stayed physically fit by running and swimming. He stayed close to his religious beliefs by attending Mass every day. He laughs and he's able to find humor in each day. I'm not trying to be a preacher as to how one should live their life, but this guy kind of figured it out. He's been able to achieve the kind of elusive happiness which is something many lawyers never achieve in this business."
There are other secrets to his happiness revealed– his survival after many combat missions serving with the U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II, for one.
"God was very good to me, and gave me a second chance in life," Lucianna said. "I remember that every day of my life."
Maybe it's that mindset that drives Lucianna when he drives to jail every Sunday to visit his clients. Maybe it's the occasional dram of Johnnie Walker Black or Blue that he reportedly enjoys that strengthens his constitution. Or maybe it's a simple love of his job, and of life itself, that so satisfies his soul.
"I love coming here, practicing law and being with these beautiful people," said Lucianna, looking around fondly at his work colleagues. "It's a wonderful experience. I'm not bored. I'm not tired. And I'm not ready to stop. There are a lot of people who hate their job. Not me. For me, my job and my family – it's the elixir of life."