Judge Joseph L. Cosetti, former City Treasurer, Dies at 92
Joseph L. Cosetti, who during a long career in public service was a U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge for 24 years, Pittsburgh City Treasurer (1970-77) and the Republican Candidate for Mayor in 1977, died Wednesday, May 12 in Pittsburgh after a short age-related illness. He was 92.
Judge Cosetti was appointed to the federal court in 1980, was named chief judge in 1985, and served in that capacity until he retired in 1994. He was then recalled to serve as a senior judge until 2004, when he finally retired.
The son of a Youngstown, Ohio steelworker, Judge Cosetti enrolled at Ohio State University where he earned a BS degree in chemistry in 1951 and an MBA degree in 1953. He worked as an economist at United States Steel and then Jones and Laughlin Steel, where he was chief economist from 1959 to 1970. He joined the U.S. Army Reserve in college and would attain the rank of colonel in the Army Reserve after decades of service.
He entered politics in 1968 when he was elected as a delegate to the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention and quickly became one of the leaders in a small bi-partisan group that advocated strongly for reform.
Judge Cosetti impressed a number of the delegates for his tenacity, including author James Michener, who had already achieved fame for his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Tales of the South Pacific.
‘It was a revelation to me to see Joe operate,” Michener wrote. “He has the analytical skill of a social scientist, the imagination of a writer, and the tenacity of a good politician. “And he doesn’t give a damn for anybody. Particularly, self-serving anybodies.”
Judge Cosetti would run for Congress in the fall of 1968 as the endorsed Democrat but lost convincingly
His political fortunes would change, however, when Mayor Peter F. Flaherty asked him to be City Treasurer in his new reform administration.
Judge Cosetti served as City Treasurer until 1977, when he was recruited by the Republican Party to run for mayor. Richard S. Caliguiri ran as an independent that fall and won in a three-way race that included the Democratic Party’s nominee Thomas. J. Forester.
Judge Cosetti attended law school at night while City Treasurer and graduated in 1975 from the Duquesne University School of Law. He joined the law firm of Titus, Marcus and Shapira after that 1977 election and was appointed to the federal bench in 1980. He served as President of the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges from 1991 to 1992. The NCBJ provides continuing legal education to judges, lawyers, and other professionals to improve the practice of law in the bankruptcy courts.
Judge Cosetti is survived by his wife of 47 years, Dr. Marilyn Sullivan Cosetti, Ph.D.
They have two children, Dr. Maura Cosetti of New York City, her husband, Dr. Vikas Mehta and John S. Cosetti and wife Kimberly Baldwin Cosetti of Pound Ridge, N.Y., and four grandchildren, Andrew and Alana Cosetti and Kareena and Leela Mehta.
Also surviving is Judge Cosetti’s sister, Dr. Elizabeth Fesler, Ph.D, of Akron, Ohio and her husband, William Fesler; also his sister-in-law, Barbara Sullivan and brother-in-law Thomas Benic, and nieces and nephews.
Friends will be received at John A. Freyvogel Sons, Inc. 4900 Centre Avenue at Devonshire Street on Friday May 21, 2021 from 3 to 7 p.m. (freyvogelfuneralhome.com)
A funeral service will be conducted at 11 a.m. Saturday May 22, 2021 at the First Baptist Church of Pittsburgh, 159 North Bellefield Ave., Oakland where Judge Cosetti served on the Board of Trustees and as Business Manager. Free parking for the funeral is available at the Schenley Plaza parking garage located on Ruskin Street in Oakland.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions may be made to the First Baptist Church of Pittsburgh,159 North Bellefield Ave.,15213 or to the Duquesne University School of Law, 600 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15282. Attention: Alumni Office.
Burial will be in Homewood Cemetery immediately following the service.
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