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Revered legal pioneer Marie L. Garibaldi, first woman on N.J. Supreme Court, dies at 81

Marie L. Garibaldi, who authored landmark legal decisions covering all areas of life in New Jersey as the first woman on the state Supreme Court, and who was regarded as a champion of individual rights and legal safeguards for women at home, at school and in the workplace, died Friday. She was 81.

Garibaldi died at Hackensack University Medical Center, where she was a board member, after two recent strokes, according to a friend and former law clerk, Anne M. Ronan.

An illustrious judge and longtime Weehawken resident, Garibaldi broke barriers for women over a 40-year career that began when female lawyers were still a novelty. By the time she stepped down from the Supreme Court in 2000, Garibaldi had become one of the state’s most revered and consequential figures in the law.

Her 225 legal opinions settled some of the biggest questions New Jerseyans face — allowing patients the choice to end their life-support treatments, defining what conduct constitutes sexual harassment in the workplace and upholding legal standards on the rights of women, the disabled, the news media and other groups. Widespread praise followed Garibaldi throughout the years from those who appreciated her wit and warmth, rigorous work ethic and cool command of the law.

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