H. Lee Sarokin, who as a federal judge in New Jersey overturned the triple-murder conviction of the star boxer Rubin (Hurricane) Carter, voided a public library’s ban against a homeless man and angered cigarette companies that claimed he had shown bias against them, died on Tuesday in the La Jolla section of San Diego, where he and his wife, Margie, lived in retirement. He was 94.

His son Jeff Sarokin said the cause was pulmonary fibrosis.

Judge Sarokin (pronounced SAR-eh-kin) resigned from the bench in 1996 while sitting on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia, where he had served for a little less than two years.

He had gained wide notice long before that, during his 15 years as a United States District Court judge in Newark, where he was perhaps best known for his decision in the Carter case.

That case began when three white people were shot to death in a Paterson, N.J., tavern in 1966. Mr. Carter and an acquaintance, John Artis, both Black, were convicted of the killings by an all-white jury. Mr. Carter was sentenced to 30 years to life in prison, and Mr. Artis to 15 years to life.

The prosecution had offered no motive, and several people had placed the defendants elsewhere at the time of the killings. But they were convicted, largely on the testimony of two men with long criminal records, one of whom said he had seen Mr. Carter and Mr. Artis leave the tavern with guns in their hands.

In 1976, the State Supreme Court overturned the convictions after those witnesses recanted their testimony and evidence of prosecutorial misconduct emerged. In a retrial, the prosecution maintained that the murders had been revenge for the killing of a Black tavern owner, and the witness who had originally placed an armed Mr. Carter at the scene recanted his recantation. Mr. Carter and Mr. Artis were again found guilty.

When state court appeals failed, defense lawyers brought the case to the federal court in Newark, arguing before Judge Sarokin in 1985 that the convictions should be overturned because of constitutional violations. The judge agreed, holding that the prosecutors had based their case on “an appeal to racism rather than reason, concealment rather than disclosure.”

Judge Sarokin said that the prosecution had “fatally infected the trial” by invoking the racial revenge theory without sufficient evidence to support it, and that it had improperly withheld information that could have aided the defense. Mr. Carter was freed after nearly two decades in prison. (Mr. Artis had already been released on parole.)

Shortly before he died in 2014, Mr. Carter wrote in The New York Daily News that he had been “freed from a living hell by the brave Judge H. Lee Sarokin.”

After Mr. Carter’s death, the long-retired Judge Sarokin revealed that every year, on the anniversary of his ruling, Mr. Carter had telephoned him to chat. “His calls touched me deeply,” he told The San Diego Union-Tribune.

In “The Hurricane,” a 1999 film starring Denzel Washington as Mr. Carter, the part of Judge Sarokin was played by Rod Steiger.

In another high-profile case, Judge Sarokin ruled in 1991 that a homeless man could not be barred from the Morristown, N.J., library because of his odor. He said that while public libraries could enforce regulations governing their patrons, the regulations used by the Morristown library violated the man’s rights because they were too broad.

“The policy neither contains nor refers to identifiable standards” of hygiene that constitute a nuisance to others, he said, and “affords the library staff and police excessive discretion in its enforcement.”

He added, “If we wish to shield our eyes and noses from the homeless, we should revoke their condition, not their library cards.”

Librarians whose buildings were being increasingly used as refuges by homeless people expressed concern over the ruling. An appeals court overturned it, saying that the regulation was valid because “it would be impossible to list all the various factual predicates” of a hygiene nuisance.

Although he was genial in the courtroom, Judge Sarokin could write harshly critical decisions. In the tobacco cases, in which companies were the targets of lawsuits accusing them of hiding the dangers of smoking, the companies charged that he should be removed because the language in some of his rulings showed a pro-plaintiff bias.

In 1992, the tobacco companies succeeded in having him ousted from one case after he began a ruling by flatly stating that among those “who believe that illness and death of consumers is an appropriate cost of their own prosperity,” the tobacco industry “may be the king of concealment and disinformation.”

An appeals court ruled that, since whether the companies had hidden the harm of smoking was to be decided by a jury, Judge Sarokin had to step down because he had violated standards on the “appearance of impartiality.”

Two years later, when Judge Sarokin was nominated to serve on the same appeals court, he acknowledged at a Senate hearing that his language in that ruling might have been “unduly strong.” He added, “I accept that I have been irrepressible at times.”

Long after he retired, he returned to the subject as electronic cigarette companies fought the scrutiny of the Food and Drug Administration. “Not much has changed,” he wrote in a letter to The New York Times in 2016.

”I presided over the first tobacco litigation for about 10 years,” he continued. “At my Senate hearing for elevation to the Court of Appeals, I conceded quite reluctantly that my language may not have been appropriate for a judicial opinion. I now wish to retract that concession and declare that it wasn’t harsh enough.”

Haddon Lee Sarokin was born in Perth Amboy, N.J., on Nov. 25, 1928, to Samuel and Reebe Sarokin. His father published small local newspapers and a state industrial directory, and his mother worked for the newspapers.

He graduated from Dartmouth College and, in 1953, from Harvard Law School. He was a lawyer for Union County, N.J., in the 1960s but was primarily in private practice until, appointed by President Jimmy Carter, he joined the federal court in Newark in 1979.

His nomination to the Court of Appeals in 1994, by President Bill Clinton, had a tough time in the Senate, with Republicans accusing him of being an irresponsible, soft-on-crime liberal, but it was ultimately approved. Those criticisms surfaced again in 1996, when Judge Sarokin was among several judges who became campaign fodder for Republicans when Mr. Clinton ran for a second term.

He announced that June that he was resigning from the bench. “I see my life’s work and reputation being disparaged on an almost daily basis,” he said at the time, “and I find myself unable to ignore it.”

He denied judicial colleagues’ speculation that his decision was also related to their rejection of what a court administrator called his “extremely unusual” request that he be allowed to move to California, where his children and grandchildren lived, and to commute to the Philadelphia court as needed.

Settling in the San Diego area, Judge Sarokin became a private mediator and arbitrator and wrote commentary on legal and political matters for his own blog and later for HuffPost. He also wrote several plays, staged by a local repertory theater. which addressed issues of social justice and civil rights.

In addition to his wife and his son Jeff, Judge Sarokin is survived by another son, Jim; a daughter, Abby Mantini; two stepchildren, Ted Schlein and Kathy Schlein; and 11 grandchildren.

In a 1989 interview on the public television program “The Open Mind,” Judge Sarokin told the host, Richard D. Heffner, that when a judge was called an activist, as conservative critics often labeled him, “it means that somebody does not agree” with a decision. “If they agree,” he added, “you‘re a supporter of the Constitution.”

Remy Tumin contributed reporting.

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