Michael Booth, who spent nearly 25 years reporting from Trenton and elsewhere for the New Jersey Law Journal, died unexpectedly Sunday at age 56.
Booth, a Virginia native who came to New Jersey in 1984 to pursue his journalism career, began working for the Law Journal on May 2, 1994, as a reporter, and later became Trenton bureau chief.
Among those who have shared thoughts with the Law Journal are New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner.
“Mike Booth covered the judicial branch of government for more than two decades and played a vital role in informing the public about the courts,” Rabner said in a statement. “We will miss his important voice and we offer our condolences to his family at this difficult time.”
Over his years at the Law Journal, he covered the state Supreme Court and other courts, the New Jersey Legislature, and more. Among his earliest dispatches, according to Law Journal archives, was his report on a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruling in Fagan v. City of Vineland, a case concerning government liability for injuries caused during police chases. Most recently, he wrote about cases argued before the state Supreme Court on Jan. 3—over charitable immunity applicability to injuries sustained at a for-profit concert run by a nonprofit university and a volunteer firefighter’s entitlement to workers’ compensation benefits.
Booth, a 1984 graduate of Virginia Tech, covered politics and government for United Press International and the Roanoke Times & World News during his time at the school, and in August 1984 began working for the The Evening News in Bridgeton. In July 1986 he began working for the Times of Trenton, where he spent eight years—including as legal affairs reporter—before joining the Law Journal.
Hank Grezlak, editor-in-chief, regional brands & legal themes, for ALM Media, said Booth “was a difference maker” and “a consummate pro.”
“His work was read closely by New Jersey Law Journal readers,” Grezlak said. “He knew all the players, and some of his strongest stories came from being able to connect the dots and illustrate how decisions and votes got done.”
Grezlak added, ”It wasn’t unusual for him to file three stories a day when there were hot arguments before the court, or a busy legislative session going on.”
David Gialanella, assistant managing editor of regional brands, said: “Mike is a known entity in New Jersey media and government, and has been an asset to the Law Journal and ALM for decades. He was a great colleague, and a hardworking and versatile reporter who wrote not only for New Jersey but also the National Law Journal, the Recorder, the Legal Intelligencer, and others. We in New Jersey are feeling the loss, but we know that feeling goes well beyond our office. Personally I’ll miss talking to him every day, and reading his stories—as will our readers.”
Zack Needles, global managing editor, regional brands, said: “Mike had extensive knowledge of New Jersey government and the state courts and could discuss both topics in depth and at length. He was a font of knowledge that I tapped into frequently during my time at the New Jersey Law Journal and beyond. But my favorite topic to talk about with Mike was family. He lit up every time he spoke of his wife and daughters and gave me heartfelt advice and encouragement when my second daughter was born last year. He was a great guy with a sly sense of humor and a real soft spot for the people he loved, and he will be missed.”
*Editor’s note: Please check back later this week for a fuller tribute to Michael and his work.