Former Ocean County Prosecutor and state legislator Marlene Lynch Ford – now a Superior Court judge – will return to Ocean County to lead its court system as assignment judge.
State Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner made the announcement this week, according to a spokeswoman for the state judiciary. She will succeed Assignment Judge Vincent J. Grasso, who is retiring after 26 years on the bench, including eight as assignment judge.
Ford, a Toms River resident, served as Ocean County prosecutor from 2007 to 2013, having been appointed by former Gov. Jon Corzine. A Democrat, Ford represented northern Ocean County for two terms in the General Assembly in the 1980s and 1990s, most notably defeating Brick resident Warren Wolf for the seat. When Gov. Chris Christie replaced her as prosecutor with Joseph Coronato, he simultaneously appointed Ford to the bench. Prior to becoming prosecutor, Ford served as a Superior Court judge from 1992 through 2006 in the Ocean vicinage in the family and civil divisions, rising to become presiding judge in the family division.
“We congratulate Judge Grasso on his many years of outstanding service to the Judiciary and the public. He has led the Ocean Vicinage with distinction,” said Rabner, in a statement. “Judge Ford brings a wealth of experience to the position in light of her exemplary service in all three branches of government. Under her leadership, I am confident that the dedicated judges and staff in the vicinage will continue to dispense justice in a fair and efficient manner that is accessible to all.”
Ford graduated magna cum laude from Georgian Court College and earned her law degree from Seton Hall Law School, where she received the Women’s Law Forum Award. She began her legal career in private practice while also serving as the municipal prosecutor for Jackson Township. She was elected for two terms to represent the 10th Legislative District in the New Jersey General Assembly and worked as general counsel to the Assembly Democratic delegation. She also worked as general counsel to H. Hovnanian Industries. In 1992, she was honored by New Jersey Monthly magazine as one of New Jersey’s “heroes” for her role in expanding the rights of people to fair housing and employment, regardless of their sexual orientation.
“I want to thank the chief justice for placing his confidence in me,” said Ford, in a statement. “I am so proud of the work of our judges and staff in the Judiciary. I am committed to ensuring that they maintain the highest level of fairness and quality service that the public expects and deserves from their government.”