Federal judge Morton Greenberg dies at 87

Morton Greenberg

Princeton resident Morton I. Greenberg, who served as a judge for almost five decades, died on Jan. 28 at the Princeton Medical Center. He was 87. The cause of his death was non-COVID pneumonia, a complication of pulmonary fibrosis.

Greenberg was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on March 20 of 1933 to Pauline and Harry Greenberg. In addition to his parents, he was
predeceased by his brother, the late Judge Manual H. Greenberg. He grew up in Atlantic City and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in
1954 with a major in history. He then attended law school at Yale University, where he was a member of the board of editors of the Yale Law Journal. He graduated in 1957.

For 33 years, he was married to Dr. Barbara-Ann K. Greenberg. They were devoted to each other, and despite numerous medical challenges, he credited his long, full life to the loving care she gave him over the years.

In 1960, Greenberg moved to Wildwood Crest to practice law as a community lawyer in a small firm in Cape May, where he worked for 11 years. His oldest daughter, Elizabeth Greenberg, remembers her father taking her to his law office when she was a little girl in the 1960s and telling her she could be a lawyer too, at a time when few women attended law school or held professional jobs. “My father always believed I could do and be anything I wanted,” she said.

In 1971, Greenberg moved to Princeton after being appointed to serve as an assistant attorney general in charge of litigation for the State of New Jersey. He would continue to call Princeton home for the rest of
his life. “I looked forward to having lunch with Dad nearly every weekend,” his son, Lawrence Greenberg said. “I often think about what he would do when it comes time to make any kind of ethical decision.”

In 1973, Governor William Cahill appointed Greenberg to serve as a judge for the Superior Court of New Jersey. Greenberg worked in every division during his tenure with the state, ending his service there as a judge in the Appellate Division.

President Ronald Reagan nominated him to be a judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in 1987. In 2000, he moved to senior status and reduced his caseload. But he continued to decide on cases up until the time of his death — most recently authoring an opinion on whether city courts could audio-record bail hearings and ultimately granting a new hearing in the case. He wrote thousands of opinions as a judge, and given his state and federal service combined, he was the longest-serving judge in New Jersey, serving the state and federal courts for 47 years combined. Among current Third Circuit judges, Greenberg was the second longest-serving judge and the second-oldest judge on the bench. He was known for his fairness, integrity, and “a sterling reputation on the bench.”

His family recalls how he loved every aspect of being a judge.
Despite his long career, his daughter Suzanne remembers her father joking that he never worked a day in his life because he always did what he loved. “There was a great lesson in that for me,” she said. His children said he avoided using labels like liberal or conservative and was always very open-minded. “The more power you have, the more restraint you use,” he once said at a symposium at Yale.

Considered “an intellectual giant” by his Third Circuit colleagues and many others, Greenberg was also known for his kindness and loyalty. Mary Ann Gartner, his judicial assistant of 33 years, remembered him as a wonderful person who was considerate and personable with his staff and others.

Greenberg is survived by his children Elizabeth J. Greenberg (Robert A. Blecker) of Chevy Chase, Maryland; Suzanne A. Greenberg (Steven Perrin) of Long Beach, California; Lawrence R. Greenberg (Melissa) of New Hope, Pennsylvania; and Carl Hoyler (Sarah) of Summit, New Jersey. He has numerous adoring grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Three of his children are from a prior marriage. He regarded his wife’s son, Carl Hoyer, as his own son. “He showed so much affection to us and our boys, and was such a devoted husband to my mother,” Hoyer said.

The family wants to express appreciation to his loyal caregiver Kwasi Bonsu, to Dr. Laura Buckley of Princeton Medical Associates, and the staff of the Medical Center of Princeton for all the care they gave to the judge. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his memory to the Princeton Rescue Squad, 2 Mt. Lucas Road, Princeton, New Jersey 08540.

One Comment

  1. I enjoyed spending time with him up at Princeton Fitness and Wellness. We sat next to each other often on the NuStep ellipticals. Would love to attend a service if there is one.

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