William Hyland, an influential lawyer whose career took him from the Legislature and the governor's cabinet to private practice, died on March 2. He was 89.
Hyland served as New Jersey attorney general under Gov. Brendan Byrne from 1974 to 1978, a time when public confidence in government was badly shaken by the Watergate scandal.
"That was a critical appointment for me at a time when integrity in government was very important," Byrne says. "Bill Hyland filled the bill."
As attorney general, Hyland argued against judicial action in the landmark Karen Ann Quinlan right-to-die case and defended New Jersey's legalization of casino gambling.
Hyland also served in the Legislature and at the helm of state regulatory and investigative agencies. He was the first chairman of the State Commission of Investigation.
Hyland graduated in 1944 from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, earning a bachelor's of science in accounting.
During World War II, he was in the U.S. Navy, participating in the invasions of Iwo Jima and Luzon. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1949, and founded his own firm, Hyland, Davis & Reberkenny in Camden.
He served in the Assembly from 1953 to 1961 and was its speaker in 1958. In 1960-61, he was president of the Camden County Bar Association.
From 1961 to 1968, Hyland chaired
the Board of Public Utilities before his appointment as SCI chief.
After becoming attorney general in 1974, Hyland was at the center of the Quinlan case, in which the parents sought permission to remove their comatose daughter's respirator.
Quinlan had been on life support for months after ingesting alcohol and tranquilizers. Hyland argued before the Supreme Court that judges did not have the authority to decide whether a respirator could be removed.
But the justices disagreed in Matter of Quinlan, 70 N.J. 10 (1976), and allowed Quinlan to be taken off it.
As attorney general, Hyland also supervised representation of the state in suits challenging the commencement of casino gambling in Atlantic City, and he set up the Division of Gaming Enforcement to regulate the enterprise.
From 1974-84, Hyland served on the Sports and Exposition Authority and was its chairman from 1978-82.
In 1986, he joined Riker, Danzig, Scherer, Hyland & Perretti in Morristown, where his clients included Jersey Central Power & Light, part owner of the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania. Hyland represented the utility in protracted hearings after the plant's 1979 meltdown.
Riker Danzig's current managing partner, Glenn Clark, recalls that his first assignment as a summer associate for the firm was under Hyland for a JCP&L insurance coverage case related to Three Mile Island.
Clark says Hyland counseled young lawyers that legal scholarship was only one aspect of being a good lawyer. He encouraged them to develop business contacts and participate in charitable activities, Clark says.
It was a skill that came easily to Hyland.
"Socially, he was so adept, so gregarious. He could work a room like no one had ever seen. He never appeared to be pandering. He always had a smile," Clark says.
In 1986, after the death of renowned clarinetist Benny Goodman, Hyland served as co-executor of Goodman's estate, overseeing the dispersal of his clarinet collection and listening to his unreleased recordings to decide whether they should be made public. A CD collection was later released.
Hyland, also a clarinetist, became friends with Goodman after meeting him in 1976 at the Waterloo Jazz Festival in Sussex County.