Obituary of Honorable Morton Ira Greenberg
Honorable Morton I. Greenberg, a United States Circuit Judge of the Third Circuit, died on January 28, 2021, at the Medical Center of Princeton, New Jersey. His death was attributed to non-covid pneumonia, a complication of pulmonary fibrosis.
Judge Greenberg was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on March 20, 1933, to the late 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, New Jersey. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1954 with a major in history and attended law school at Yale University, class of 1957, where he was a member of the Board of Editors of the Yale Law Journal.
Judge Greenberg was married to Dr. Barbara-Ann K. Greenberg for 33 years. Despite numerous medical challenges, he credited his long, full life to the loving care she gave him over the years. They were devoted to each other.
Judge Greenberg’s distinguished law career began with his appointment of the Office of the Attorney General in Trenton, New Jersey. In 1960, he moved to Wildwood Crest and practice law as a community lawyer in a small firm in Cape May, New Jersey for the next eleven years. His eldest daughter, Elizabeth, 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, Judge Greenberg moved to Princeton to take a position appointed by the Attorney General of New Jersey as assistant attorney general in charge of litigation for the state. He would continue to call Princeton home for the rest of his life. His son, Lawrence, said, “I looked forward to having lunch with Dad nearly every weekend and I often think about what he would do when it comes time to make any kind of ethical decision.”
In 1973, Governor Cahill appointed Judge Greenberg to the Superior Court of New Jersey. While on this court, Judge Greenberg served on all divisions of that court and ended his service there while in the Appellate Division.
President Ronald Reagan nominated him to be a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in 1987, and he has remained in that position ever since, reducing his case load in 2000 when he took Senior Status. Judge Greenberg has written thousands of opinions, many of which have been published and have precedential authority. Given his state and federal service combined, Judge Greenberg was the longest serving judge in New Jersey, serving the judiciary for 47 years. 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.
Considered “an intellectual giant” by his Third Circuit colleagues and many others, Judge Greenberg was also known for his kindness and loyalty. Mary Ann Gartner, the Judge’s judicial assistant of 33 years, said: “He is the most wonderful human being you will ever meet—so considerate and so personable.”
Judge Greenberg has four children, three from a prior marriage, and his wife’s son, Carl, whom he regarded as his own son. His children are 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.
Carl wrote about Judge Greenberg, “He showed so much affection to us and our boys, and was such a devoted husband to my mother. He was truly on of the most honorable, humble and genuine people we have ever known.”
Eschewing labels of liberal or conservative, Judge Greenberg was truly open-minded. He once remarked at a Yale symposium, “The more power your have, the more restraint you use.” Elizabeth added, “He was one of the most honest and ethical people I’ve ever known.”
The family wants to express its appreciation to Kwasi Bonsu, his loyal caregiver, Dr. Laura Buckley of Princeton Medical Associates, and the staff of the Medical Center of Princeton for all the care they have given to Judge Greenberg.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Princeton Rescue Squad, 2 Mt. Lucas Road, Princeton, New Jersey 08540.
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