“Modern nonprofit hospitals are essentially legal fictions.”
So wrote Judge Vito L. Bianco ‘83, a New Jersey tax court judge as he ruled against Morristown Hospital operating as a nonprofit, charitable organization.
The 2015 landmark ruling shined a spotlight on the California Western alum as other nonprofits in New Jersey, especially hospitals and universities feared for their nonprofit tax status.
“Nonprofit hospitals have changed significantly, however, from their early origins as charitable alms houses providing free basic medical treatment to the infirm poor,” wrote Judge Bianco in his ruling. “Today they are sophisticated centers of medical care, and in some cases, education, providing a litany of medical services regardless of a patient’s ability to pay.”
Bianco’s tenure as a tax court judge began in 2001 when he was appointed to the bench while working for Gov. Di Francesco’s election campaign.
“Early in my career as a lawyer, I became involved with a number of political campaigns and was eventually hired by a succession of politically active law firms,” recalls Judge Bianco. “Those firms gave me the opportunity to represent our clients’ interests before the New Jersey Tax Court. In 2000, several members of the New Jersey Tax Bar urged me to submit my name to fill a vacancy on the court. I am now in my 18th year on the bench.”
Judge Bianco credits California Western for giving him a well-rounded legal education which he found helpful in approaching a variety of legal assignments on his path to entering the judicial system.
“Since I always planned to return to the East Coast, California Western’s comprehensive course selection well prepared me for the bar exams in eastern states that test on a wide variety of subjects in addition to the more general bar exam topics,” he says.
Judge Bianco, who declines to comment publicly about the Morristown case despite the groundbreaking nature of the ruling has some simple advice for California Western students today.
“They need to keep an open mind and follow their instincts,” he says. “They shouldn’t rule out any possible career path simply because they might not know much about a particular area of law,” he adds.
Today, notwithstanding the notoriety of his Morristown ruling, Judge Bianco continues in his unassuming style to hear mostly low-profile cases with little appeal to the public.
Bianco, who has been called “one of the best” judges in the state by attorneys who have appeared before him attributes his success to some very simple tenets.
“Personal integrity and perseverance are key to having a successful career in law.”