Brendan Byrne, a two-term New Jersey governor, as well as county prosecutor and judge, has died at age 93.
While he’s often remembered for shepherding through the legalization of casino gambling and for appointing Chief Justice Robert Wilentz to what would become the most influential state Supreme Court of the modern constitutional era in New Jersey, Byrne got his start as a private practitioner in Essex County, after serving in the military during World War II and graduating from Princeton University and Harvard Law. A West Orange native, Byrne was admitted to the New Jersey bar in 1951.
Byrne, a Democrat, began public sector practice as a legal adviser to then-Gov. Robert Meyner, later becoming Essex County prosecutor for two terms, and then a Superior Court judge. He won his first of two gubernatorial races in 1973.
In more recent years, Byrne was a name partner at Carella, Byrne, Cecchi, Olstein, Brody & Agnello of Roseland.
“We are all deeply saddened by Brendan’s passing. He was a true patriot and a great defender of New Jersey,” Carella Byrne chairman Charles Carella said in a statement on behalf of the firm. “We will all miss his wit, wisdom and professionalism. It was an honor to be his friend and to practice law with him for over 58 years.”
He also was a longtime member of the Law Journal’s Editorial Board.
“As a long-time member of the editorial board, Governor Byrne was a leader, mentor and friend to us all—humble, funny, fair and wise,” said board chairman Rosemary Alito, of K&L Gates’ Newark office, in a statement. “He showed us through his everyday actions what the best of public service and lawyering can be. He will be sorely missed.”
As a long-time member of the editorial board, Governor Byrne was a leader, mentor and friend to us all — humble, funny, fair and wise. He showed us through his everyday actions what the best of public service and lawyering can be. He will be sorely missed.
Gov. Chris Christie, in a statement, said: “On a personal note, Mary Pat and I express our deepest condolences to his wife Ruthie and his entire family. I considered Governor Byrne a mentor and a friend. My life is richer for having known him as I am sure are the lives of every person who had the privilege to meet him.”
Senate President Steve Sweeney also issued a statement saying Byrne “provided strong and determined leadership at a pivotal time in the state’s history, shaping policies on a wide range of issues that continue to have an influence on the quality of life to this day. Among his accomplishments were bringing casino gambling to Atlantic City, the creation of NJ Transit, the preservation of the Pinelands, public financing of gubernatorial campaigns, and passage of the state income tax to fund public schools and reduce property taxes.”