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Justice Marie L. Garibaldi

Remembering Justice Marie L. Garibaldi

Justice Garibaldi graduated from Columbia Law School in 1956, only one of 12 women in a class of 250 students. Future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was among her classmates.


Seton Hall Law mourns the death of the Honorable Marie L. Garibaldi (1934-2016), the first woman to serve as Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court.

“Justice Garibaldi was a trailblazer for women, leading by example as she assumed her place among our state’s leading jurists,” said Dean Kathleen M. Boozang. “Her brilliant career was also punctuated by grace, kindness and wisdom. She often visited Seton Hall Law School, volunteering her time to guide the young women, and men, who followed in her path. She was an inspiration to us all and we will miss her greatly.”

Justice Garibaldi graduated from Columbia Law School in 1956, attending the first year that the law school admitted women. She counted among her classmates future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; together, they were among the 12 women in the graduating class of 250 students.

She began her career as a prosecutor for the Internal Revenue Service, then entered private practice as a tax attorney at the law firm of Riker Danzig. During her term as President of the New Jersey State Bar Association in 1982 – the first woman to serve in the role – New Jersey Governor Tom Kean appointed her to the State Supreme Court, where she served until her retirement in 2000.

Professor John Wefing paid tribute to Justice Garibaldi as both a longtime friend and colleague in the legal profession:

The State of New Jersey has lost one of its great public servants with the passing of Justice Garibaldi. I first came to know Marie when we were both active in the New Jersey Bar Association…She was a superb Justice – writing more than two hundred thoughtful, well- reasoned opinions.

After her retirement from the Court, Marie remained active and served on many boards and committees.

She inspired those who knew her and were fortunate enough to work with her. She will be deeply missed.

Professor Paula Franzese served as a clerk on the State Supreme Court when Justice Garibaldi sat on the bench:

I served as a judicial law clerk to Justice Handler during Justice Garibaldi's tenure on the Court. She was a trailblazer who was both prudent and prescient in her rulings. Justice Garibaldi was a master conciliator and bridge-builder. She forged consensus even when none seemed possible. She made us all better people because we knew her.

Members of the bench and bar, and law students alike, looked to Justice Garibaldi as a role model throughout her career. “Today’s students would do well to emulate Justice Garibaldi as they enter the profession. She stayed engaged with the bar and engaged in public service through the end of her very full life,” Dean Boozang concluded.

Photo credit: Tom Kitts, Star-Ledger