Justice O'Hern Celebrates 70th Birthday and Retirement from NJ Supreme Court
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Associate Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court Daniel J. O'Hern today celebrates his 70th birthday and with that, his retirement after serving as a member of the Court since August 6, 1981."Justice O'Hern has served the people of New Jersey long and well. His opinions have touched the lives of homeless people and corporate giants alike. We will miss his intellect, his dedication to the constitution and his ability to bring us together through sometimes difficult discussions on the issues before us," said Chief Justice Deborah T. Poritz.
"As we say goodbye, we wish him a healthy, happy and productive retirement," she added.
Justice O'Hern was known for the precision and clarity with which he expressed complex legal principles in the 231 opinions he authored during his tenure. When asked which was his favorite opinion, Justice O'Hern quoted Associate US Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, for whom O'Hern served as law clerk upon graduation from Harvard Law School in 1957. "That is like asking which is your favorite child," said Justice O'Hern, repeating Justice Brennan's usual reply.
Among those he mentioned as opinions he particularly enjoyed writing were In Re Proportionality Review, dealing with the state's system of reviewing death sentences; Williams v Dept. of Human Services, on the rights of the homeless; and Ford Motor v Edison, on the valuation of industrial property.
Justice O'Hern served as chair of the Judicial Salary and Pensions Committee. He was appointed by the late Chief Justice Robert Wilentz as an advisor to the New Jersey Commission on Professionalism in the Law; and he chaired the Family Court Reorganization Committee. The Family Court committee was charged with the task of carrying out the changes to the court system called for in the constitutional amendment that abolished the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court and created the Family Part in the Chancery Division. He also served on the Council of Judges of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.
Justice O'Hern was born in Red Bank in 1930. He attended Regis High School in New York and was graduated from Fordham College in 1951. Before graduating from Harvard Law School, he served in the US Navy from 1951 to 1954 and was separated at the rank of lieutenant, j.g. He was aboard the USS Essex during the Korean War.
His rich history of public service includes serving as a councilman in Red Bank and then as mayor. He was commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection serving under Gov. Brendan Byrne, and then was appointed Counsel to the Governor. Gov. Byrne announced his intention to appoint Justice O'Hern to the Supreme Court on April 20, 1981. The nomination was submitted to the Senate on May 4 and confirmed on May 20. He was sworn in on August 6, 1981.
Justice O'Hern and his wife Barbara live in Little Silver. They have five children and six grandchildren.