Atlantic City lawyers Tracy and Mike Riley celebrated their eighth wedding anniversary eating Wawa sandwiches on the floor of their living room, surrounded by autopsy photos and grisly police reports. That’s nothing unusual for the lawyers, with both of them being highly regarded criminal and civil litigators who have, among the murders and mayhem that they deal with professionally, has also been a unique niche in the dog bite law arena.
“I think we could be married 50 years, and that will be one of the most memorable and most enjoyable anniversary dinners we’ve ever had,” Tracy Riley said this month at the Mount Holly law office she shares with her husband, as reported by Philly.com.
The Rileys, who have been married for 19 years, work side by side in one of the few husband-wife law firms in the state. They have frequently provided counsel for Atlantic City, usually defending police officers in employment and excessive-force cases.
Last week, the couple defended separate clients in Camden federal court, a floor apart from one another, and had the opportunity to see more of each other than busy trial calendars typically allow.
Mike Riley made sure to catch his wife’s opening argument in her trial defending five Atlantic City police officers charged with excessive force against a man outside of a casino. The jury found one officer and the city at fault and ordered them to pay $250,000 each to the plaintiff. No judgment was returned against the remaining four officers.
In the few free moments she had, Tracy Riley sneaked upstairs to the fourth floor to see how pretrial motions were going in Mike’s trial, slated to start Jan. 6. He’s representing Nicodemo Scarfo, son of Philadelphia mob boss Nicky Scarfo Jr., on charges involving a massive business looting operation.
It wasn’t so long ago the couple were celebrating their nuptials over sandwiches while poring over one of the highest profile murder cases in state history – the 2002 trial of Cherry Hill Rabbi Fred J. Neulander. Mike Riley, a relatively new defense attorney at the time, was representing Neulander, accused of murder and conspiracy in the death of his wife, Carol. Tracy took time off from law school to watch the nationally televised case in the courtroom.
“The prosecutor at the time, Jim Lynch, kept turning around at critical moments asking if I was sure I wanted to do this,” Tracy Riley said.
Neulander was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Riley called it “one of the most interesting cases of my career, peppered with fascinating characters.”
Unlike her husband, Tracy Riley, who at 45 is 20 years younger than him, did not set out to be a lawyer. She grew up in Vincentown, married her high school sweetheart, and took a clerical job with the Burlington County Freeholders’ Office.
She was working there when she met Mike Riley, who was with the Prosecutor’s Office at the time. He would go on to become first assistant prosecutor and try more death penalty cases, 10, than anyone else in the state during his tenure. Three resulted in juries’ recommending the death penalty,
As Mike Riley’s career took off, Tracy was silently dealing with an abusive relationship at home. Over 21/2 years she sought and then dropped three restraining orders against her first husband, the father of her daughter.
“I fell into ‘Everything will be fine, we’ll work this out, we’ll go for therapy, we’ll go for counseling.’ All those promises unfulfilled.”
The experience led to her interest in law and to Mike Riley. A few years later the couple reconnected at a Mount Holly tavern. He was also divorced, and had two sons. The Rileys married in a chapel in Medford Lakes in 1994.