Justice Failla wa a native of New York. In 1970, fresh out of a tour to Vietnam and having just taken a job as an assistant district attorney he discovered that a colleague was extorting gay men entrapped by the police. When he confronted her about it, she tried to black mail him, threatening to expose his homosexuality at a time when it meant almost certain career and personal failure. After a few sleepless nights he did what we all hope we would do in the same circumstance,
He decided he would not live in that kind of terror and would not become part of the oppression of his people. So Richard Failla stood up to that blackmailer and it did not ruin his career.
He became a senior trial attorney in Manhattan District Attorney's office and in 1985 received an appointment as Judge of New York's Criminal Court. In 1989 getting endorsements from Democrats, Republicans and Liberals he was elected to a 14 year seat as Justice of the Supreme Court in the State of New York. Failla is quick to point out the irony that the site of his induction as a judge as in the very neighborhood that once sat at the police entrapment he faced as a young man.
In September of '89 he and several other judges toured jails in New York State to educate themselves on what could be done for prisioners. The Bar Association found that the handling of AIDS cases by the criminal justice system in New York State has sometimes deprived defendants of their legal rights and endangered their lives with inferior prison health care, a new report by the City Bar Association charges. Failla sought to improve the situation of prisioners.
As the AIDS epidemic emerged, Judge Failla served on the board of directors of the Gay Men's Health Crisis, the world's first private AIDS agency.
His life has not been with out it's tragedy either. His life partner of twenty years, Richard Gross, died from complications of AIDS in 1992. Failla died soon after of AIDS related illness at a hospital in New York, at the young age of 53.