Lorraine Gerson, the oldest serving federal prosecutor, died on January 7 after a brief battle with cancer. She was 89.
Gerson served as an assistant U.S. Attorney from 1979 until her death and worked in the economic crimes under thirteen U.S. Attorneys.
She won hundreds of cases in her nearly forty years as a federal prosecutor.
“If you go against Lorraine Gerson, you say ‘oh, shit,” prominent defense attorney Michael Critchley said in a 2011 ABC New interview.
She left a career at Bloomingdales in 1956 to raise her children. She was active in the Montclair League of Women Voters in the 1960s and graduated from Seton Hall Law School in 1971.
She joined the staff of New Jersey Attorney General George Kugler that year, one of just seven women in the attorney general’s office at the time.
Gerson was one of three women from her law school class to hired by Kugler, along with Sister May Ann Burgess, the first nun to work in the attorney general’s office, and Golden Johnson, the fist black woman to serve there.
As deputy attorney general, she forced Levitt and Sons, one of the nation’s largest homebuilders, to repair faulty construction in a Freeholder housing development after an eight-month investigation. She worked with the state consumer affairs director, Millicent Fenwick, to reach a settlement with Levitt. Gerson also won a case against Alexander’s, a major department store chain in the 1970s, for false advertising.
Robert Del Tufo, who had served as director of the state Division of Criminal Justice while Gerson was a deputy attorney general, hired her as a federal prosecutor after Jimmy Carter had appointed him U.S. Attorney.
Gerson began her career as an assistant U.S. Attorney by fighting a move by Dover Township – now Toms River – to stop a low-income housing project. Gerson represented the Department of Housing and Urban Development in a lawsuit filed by the municipality and won.
She is survived by her three daughters and three grandchildren.
A memorial service is planned for January 27.