Judge Jane Grall (1949-2021)

Judge Jane Grall died on August 20 at age 72. A graduate of Trinity College in Washington, DC, she taught social studies in Cranford for six years before attending Rutgers Law School in Camden. She clerked for Judge Matthews in the Appellate Division and then joined the Attorney General’s office, where she became an Assistant Attorney General.

In 1997, Governor Whitman nominated Judge Grall to the Superior Court bench. Judge Grall sat in the Civil and Family Divisions in Mercer County. She was serving as Presiding Judge of the Family Part when she was elevated to the Appellate Division in 2004. She retired from the court in 2014 but later returned on recall at the trial and appellate levels.

Among Judge Grall’s most cited opinions are Moore v. Woman to Woman Obstetrics & Gynecology, LLC, 416 N.J. Super. 30 (App. Div. 2010), United Consumer Financial Services Co. v. Carbo, 410 N.J. Super. 280 (App. Div. 2009), Ferolito v. Park Hill Ass’n, 408 N.J. Super. 401 (App. Div. 2009), Bender v. Walgreen Eastern Co., 399 N.J. Super. 584 (App. Div. 2008), and R.L. v. State-Operated School District, 387 N.J. Super. 331 (App. Div. 2006). And one of her former law clerks has written that, on five occasions, the Supreme Court affirmed Judge Grall’s rulings substantially for the reasons that she gave, evidencing the Court’s respect for her.

In an essay for the Eagleton Institute at Rutgers earlier this year, reflecting on events of 2020 and 2021, Judge Grall wrote, in part:

“The events of 2020 and 2021 spotlighted cracks and divisions in American democracy the complexity of its problems. Knowing the collective efforts of our diverse citizenry met equally challenging problems in the past gives reason to believe we can do it again.

“There are new obstacles to collective efforts.  In my view, the biggest is the prevalence of disregard for truth. Untruths in public discourse are especially destructive because they confuse and derail reasonable inquiry and can engender chaos.  Videos memorializing the behavior and rhetoric before, during and after January 6 events at the Capitol illustrate that point.

“Since that date we have been given reason to believe that collective efforts to better community and country are not just dreams for the past.

The verdict returned in State v. Chauvin is one example. The State’s prosecutors, relied on the law and evidence as they should.  The jurors had the facts and asked clarification of the law as they should, before completing deliberations and reaching a verdict.

“The individual and collective efforts of our medical professionals and scientists, who did their best to care for the ill, develop and administer vaccines are another example.

The straightforward, informed, empathetic and civil words of our President explaining his efforts to address our challenges is another. Hopefully, other elected and appointed public servants will take that approach. It’s a bad time to derail and a good time to start reuniting through collective effort”

These inspirational words can be a guide for us all.