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Mary C. Jacobson

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Mary C. Jacobson
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Current Court Information:
New Jersey Vicinage 7
Title:   Presiding Judge
Position:   Superior Court, Chancery Division
Active:   2001-2023
Past position:   Assistant attorney general, New Jersey
Past term:   1993-2001
Personal History
Born:   1953
Undergraduate:   Smith College, 1974
Law School:   New York University School of Law, 1978

Mary C. Jacobson is a judge on the Vicinage 7 Superior Court in New Jersey.[1] Jacobson was appointed to the court in 2001 and obtained tenured status in 2008. She will now serve on the court until she reaches 70 years of age in 2023.[2][3]


Jacobson received her undergraduate degree from Smith College in 1974 and her J.D. from New York University School of Law in 1978.[4][5]


  • 2001-2023: Judge, New Jersey Vicinage 7
  • 1993-2001: Assistant attorney general, New Jersey
  • 1979-1993: Deputy assistant attorney general, New Jersey[4]

Notable cases

Hundreds of millions in pension payment cuts were justified, judge says

On June 25, 2014, Judge Jacobson ruled that Gov. Chris Christie's plan to cut $887 million from the state's pension payment was justified due to the "staggering" revenue shortfall that the state experienced.[6]

The New Jersey governor made the decision in May 2014 to pay $696 million into the state's pension system rather than the approximately $1.58 billion that was previously budgeted.[6] Public employee unions sued to stop him, but Judge Jacobson ruled:

The governor complied with the statutes to the extent he determined to be reasonable given the nature and extent of the emergency...He took a measured response compelled by the exigencies of the circumstances.[7][8]

In her argument defending the pension cuts, Assistant Attorney General Jean Reilly explained that the governor had a constitutional responsibility to balance the budget over maintaining the state's contractual obligations. Though Jacobson did rule that the contracts with the unions were breached, she ultimately decided that it was a necessary evil.

Democrats were unhappy with the result of the ruling. Senate President Stephen Sweeney stated:

We are disappointed in the ruling and certainly disagree with the outcome...Democrats put forward a budget that keeps our commitments to retirees and middle class New Jersey families regardless of the governor turning his back on them.[7][8]

Policypedia-Main-Logo-no background.pngFor more information on pension policy, visit Policypedia.

Judge blocks Legislature's attempt to subpoena documents relating to "Bridgegate" scandal

Judge Jacobson ruled on April 9, 2014 that Bridget Kelly, Gov. Christie’s former deputy chief of staff, and Bill Stepien, the governor's former campaign manager, do not have to hand over documents subpoenaed by the New Jersey Legislature. The subpoenas came as the result of the "Bridgegate" scandal in which traffic jams on the George Washington Bridge were allegedly orchestrated by members of Gov. Christie's administration as an act of political revenge. The New Jersey Select Committee on Investigations, while looking into the matter, subpoenaed Kelly and Stepien in order to obtain further evidence in the scandal. According to the court, the committee requested "all communications, documents, and phone records relating to the lane closures."[9] When the requests were denied, the committee sought a court order requiring Kelly and Stepien to comply with the subpoenas.[10]

Judge Jacobson ruled that the Legislature's request was too broad, amounting to a "fishing expedition."[11] The defendants had argued that the subpoenas violated their constitutional protection against self-incrimination. With so many documents requested, the court found that at least some of them were likely to be incriminating.

Another consideration of the court was whether it had the authority to enforce decisions of the Legislature. The judge found that the committee itself had the authority to enforce its subpoenas. These "complicated and untested jurisdictional issues", as Judge Jacobson described them, affirmed the her decision not to require the defendants to produce the documents.[9]

John Wisniewski, co-chairman of the legislative committee, stated:

The committee felt it was very much in the public interest to seek to compel the production of these documents, but as we’ve said before, there’s more than one method to gather information in an investigation, and we will consider alternatives.[8]

—John Wisniewski[11]

Judge rules New Jersey must allow same-sex marriages

Judge Mary Jacobson ruled on September 27, 2013 that the state of New Jersey must allow same-sex marriages, in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act in June. That decision marked the start of the federal government's recognition of same-sex marriages, though couples in civil unions would no longer receive the same federal benefits as married couples. Jacobson's decision marked the first time that a judge used the SCOTUS decision to strike down a state marriage law.

Judge Jacobson wrote in her decision:

The ineligibility of same-sex couples for federal benefits is currently harming same-sex couples in New Jersey in a wide range of contexts.[12][8]


Same-sex couples must be allowed to marry in order to obtain equal protection of the law under the New Jersey Constitution.[13][8]
The New Jersey Supreme Court denied the state's appeal on the ruling, making New Jersey the 14th state to recognize same-sex marriage, effective November 11, 2013.[14]

See also

External links


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