Deborah T. Poritz was the first woman in New Jersey to serve as Chief Counsel to the Governor, as Attorney General, and as Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1977, the former Chief Justice began her career as a Deputy Attorney General in the Civil Division of the Office of the New Jersey Attorney General. She served in the Environmental Section, in the Banking and Public Securities Section, as Deputy Attorney General in Charge of Appeals and, from 1986 to 1989, as Assistant Attorney General and Director of the Division of Law supervising over 300 attorneys representing the state. In 1989, Governor Kean appointed her Chief Counsel where she served until the Governor left office in 1990. After four years in private practice, the Chief Justice returned to state government as New Jersey’s Attorney General until her appointment, in 1996, as Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court. During her tenure on the Court, the Chief Justice authored numerous opinions on significant issues of state and federal law, including the discriminatory use of preemptory jury challenges, the right of the Boy Scouts to exclude an openly homosexual scout leader, and the right of same-sex couples to marry. She is recognized for having increased the number of minority and women managers in the judiciary, and for having elevated minority and women judges to leadership positions and to the appellate courts. On retirement from the bench in 2006, the Chief Justice practiced law at Drinker Biddle & Reath LLC until June 2018. During the period 2010-2013, she also held the position of Visiting Jurist Emerita-in-Residence at the Rutgers Schools of Law in Newark and Camden.
Chief Justice Poritz has received the Alumna Award of Merit from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where, subsequently, her career was celebrated when her portrait was hung at the Law School. She also has received the Alumna of the Year Award and the first Presidential Medal from her alma mater, Brooklyn College. She has been presented with the National Association of Women Judges’ Lifetime Achievement Award, the Richard J. Hughes Public Service Award, the New Jersey Council for the Humanities Civic Leadership Award, the Mary Philbrook Award, and the LSNJ Equal Justice Award, among others. She served on the University of Pennsylvania Law School Board of Overseers from 2001 to 2007, chaired the GEAR Sentencing/ Corrections Task Force for Governor Corzine, and chaired the Board of Legal Services of New Jersey. Currently, the Chief Justice is vice-chair of the Board of the Princeton HealthCare System, chairs the Criminal Sentencing and Disposition Commission convened by Governor Phil Murphy, and is a member of Governor Murphy's Judicial Advisory Panel. Chief Justice Poritz became a member of the Board of the Fund for New Jersey in 2006. She served as Chair from 2015-2020.