WHEREAS, Supreme Court Justice Daniel J. O’Hern was, for many decades, an extraordinary figure in the public life of New Jersey, faithfully serving the people of this State as a respected member of the State’s highest Court for just under two decades; a Commissioner in the executive branch; a chief counsel to the Governor; an elected councilman and mayor; an accomplished attorney; and a leader in civic affairs, and today New Jersey is a better place because of him and his exemplary service; and
WHEREAS, Justice O’Hern was a true son of New Jersey, born and raised in Red Bank, one of four children, who became interested in law at a young age, through his aunt’s employment with Jack Quinn, a beloved Monmouth County lawyer; and
WHEREAS, Justice O’Hern won a scholarship to Regis High School, a highly selective Jesuit school in New York City and subsequently graduated from Fordham College, cum laude, with a major in mathematics in 1951; and
WHEREAS, Justice O’Hern then served in the United States Navy from 1951 to 1954, during a time when the United States was at war in Korea, and left the Navy with the rank of Lieutenant, J.G.; and
WHEREAS, he then was admitted to Harvard Law School and graduated, again cum laude, in 1957, and served as a judicial clerk to United States Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., another son of New Jersey, who became a mentor and close friend; and
WHEREAS, Justice O’Hern returned to New Jersey to practice law; and entered public life in 1962, when he was elected councilman in Red Bank and thereafter was elected mayor in 1969, serving in that position until 1978 when Governor Byrne appointed him commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection; and
WHEREAS, Governor Byrne later appointed him as his chief counsel in 1979; and
WHEREAS, Justice O’Hern was nominated to the Supreme Court of New Jersey by Governor Byrne, confirmed by the Senate, and sworn in as associate Justice on August 6, 1981, and he was subsequently renominated to that position by Governor Kean in 1988; and
WHEREAS, during his tenure on the Supreme Court, Justice O’Hern wrote 231 majority opinions, was known for the precision of his analysis and the clarity of his prose, and was recognized as a consensus builder who believed that the Court should be unanimous on significant issues; and
WHEREAS, Justice O’Hearn also was a jurist of resolute conviction, unafraid of disagreement with his colleagues, and penned 142 dissents; and
WHEREAS, the many significant decisions Justice O’Hern is recognized for include: In Re Proportionality Review, dealing with the state's system of reviewing death sentences; Ford Motor v. Edison, on the valuation of industrial property; State in the Interest of T.L.O., which set a higher standard for school authorities to conduct searches of students’ personal effects; Williams v. Dept. of Human Services, defining the state's obligation to provide adequate emergency housing assistance to prevent homelessness, as well as decisions that granted battered spouses the right to sue their ex-mates and that supported the right of the press to obtain public records; and
WHEREAS, during his tenure on the Court, Justice O’Hern was recognized for his passion for justice and his sense of balance and perspective, which helped his colleagues overcome their disagreements on numerous occasions; and
WHEREAS, Justice O'Hern, during his two decades on the Court, strengthened the administration of justice throughout the State, through his service in the positions as chair of the Judicial Salary and Pensions Committee, an advisor to the New Jersey Commission on Professionalism in the Law, and as chairman of the Family Court Reorganization Committee, which was charged with implementing the changes to the court system called for in the 1983 constitutional amendment that abolished the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court and created the Family Part in the Chancery Division; and
WHEREAS, Justice O’Hern, upon reaching the mandatory retirement age in 2000, became of counsel to the Gibbons firm in Newark and subsequently of counsel to the Becker Meisel firm in Red Bank, a position he held until recently; and
WHEREAS, since leaving the bench, Justice O’Hern became a leader in civic affairs and served on the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct, on the New Jersey Law Journal's editorial board, as president of the Harvard Law School Association of New Jersey, and as trustee of the Legal Aid Society of Monmouth County; and
WHEREAS, it is with deep sadness that we mourn the loss of Justice O’Hern and extend our sincere sympathy to his wife of 50 years, Barbara Ronan O’Hern, their five children and eight grandchildren, his two sisters and brother, his extended family, and his many friends and colleagues; and
WHEREAS, it is fitting and appropriate to honor the achievements, the character, the memory, and the passing of Justice O’Hern;
NOW, THEREFORE, I, JON S. CORZINE, Governor of the State of New Jersey, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and by the Statutes of this State, do hereby ORDER and DIRECT:
- The flag of the United States of America and the flag of the State of New Jersey shall be flown at half-staff at all State departments, offices, agencies, and instrumentalities during appropriate hours on Wednesday, April 8, 2009, in recognition and mourning of the passing of Justice Daniel J. O’Hern.
- This Order shall take effect immediately.
GIVEN, under my hand and seal this 4th
day of April, Two Thousand and Nine,
and of the Independence of the United
States, the Two Hundred and Thirty-third.
/s/ Jon S. Corzine
/s/ William J. Castner, Jr.
Chief Counsel to the Governor