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  • Writer's pictureKaren Brittingham-Edmond

The Relaunched Echo Reflects On The Life Of The Honorable Lisa Payne Thornton's Juneteenth 2023

June 19, 2023

Obituary Provided by Damiano Funeral Home

Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Lisa Thornton, a trailblazing figure in New Jersey's court system, sadly passed away at 59 on May 26, 2023. Her notable achievements and contributions have left an indelible mark on the legal profession in New Jersey.

The Honorable Judge Lisa Payne Thornton, a woman of remarkable kindness and generosity, passed from this world to her heavenly home on May 26, 2023, at 59. She was born and raised in Long Branch, NJ, to Milford L. Thornton and Louise S. Thornton. She is predeceased by her parents and brother, Milford L. Thornton, Jr. Though she has departed, her loving memory will continue to be cherished by her nephew Kent A. Thornton, whom she loved like a son, and his wife Federica, great-nephew Lorenzo Thornton, great-niece, and namesake Lisa M. Thornton, and a host of family, friends, and colleagues.

Lisa was a woman of faith and a devout member of the Second Baptist Church in Long Branch, New Jersey. She lived her life with a deep sense of purpose, and her contributions through a stellar law and public service career will never be forgotten.

Her journey began in Long Branch Public Schools, where she excelled academically. She graduated from Long Branch High School and attended Douglas College, where she obtained her undergraduate degree in Political Science. Lisa obtained her juris doctorate from Rutgers University School of Law. Her professional life was marked by an unwavering commitment to justice. At the time of her transition, Lisa served as the Assignment Judge of Monmouth County, appointed in 2014 by Chief Justice Stuart Rabner. She made history in this role as the first African American Woman Assignment Judge in New Jersey history. Governor Jon S. Corzine appointed her to the Superior Court bench by Governor Jon S. Corzine in 2008. There, she served as the Supervising Special Civil Part and Presiding Judge for the Monmouth Vicinage. Before her appointment to the bench, Lisa served as Chief of Staff for the Department of Law and Public Safety, where she assisted both Attorney Generals Stu Rabner and Anne Milgram with the overall management and oversight of the Department and its approximately 9,000 employees. Lisa was highly acclaimed for spearheading a statewide criminal justice initiative that addressed prevention, enforcement, and re-entry.

Lisa was a woman of many talents, and her contributions to public service were extensive. In 2006 she served as Senior Counsel to Governor Jon S. Corzine, assigned to the Authorities Unit, responsible for monitoring public boards and commissions. Lisa supervised these Boards to ensure alignment with the Governor’s agenda on issues ranging from healthcare and education to public finance and transportation. From 2002 through 2006, Lisa served as Special Deputy Commissioner for the Department of Banking and Insurance, where she helped develop reforms that resulted in the vibrant auto insurance market that New Jersey consumers currently enjoy. From 1999 to 2001, Lisa served as a Municipal Court Judge in Neptune, NJ. In addition, she was a Senior Trial Attorney with Prudential Financial from 1992 to 2002.


Monmouth County Surrogate Rosemary Peters (left) and Freeholder Director Lillian Burry (right) were invited by Superior Court, Monmouth Vicinage, Assignment Judge Lisa P. Thornton (center) to speak on a panel titled “Trailblazing Women – Breaking the Glass Ceiling,” in honor of Women’s History Month. (March 31, 2017)

Beyond her illustrious career, Lisa was a woman of many passions, with a deep love of travel, cooking, and spending time with her family. Her warmth, humor, and loving spirit will be deeply missed.

In honor of Lisa's lifelong dedication to pursuing justice and achieving diversity in the legal profession, the New Jersey State Bar Association has established The Hon. Lisa P. Thornton Memorial Scholarship for young African American women seeking to attend law school. In honor of her legacy, donations can be made online at Checks can be mailed and made payable to the New Jersey State Bar Foundation with a notation to direct the funds to The Hon. Lisa P. Thornton Memorial Scholarship. Checks can be mailed to The New Jersey State Bar Association c/o Angela Scheck: 1 Constitution Square, New Brunswick, NJ 08901. You may contact Angela Scheck directly at

As we bid farewell to Lisa Payne Thornton, we honor her legacy of kindness, compassion, and devotion to justice. Her spirit will continue to shine in the hearts of those who knew her, and her memory will be a guiding light for generations to come.

The Hon. Lisa P. Thornton visitation was held on Friday, June 9, 2023, from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM at Brookdale Community College - at the Robert J. Collins Arena, 765 Newman Springs Road in Lincroft, NJ, and Saturday, June 10, 2023, from 10:00 AM until the time of the funeral service at 11:00 AM at Second Baptist Church, 93 Liberty Street in Long Branch. Interment will follow at Woodbine Cemetery in Oceanport. Where with hundreds showed up to honor the well-respected and loved judge, The Hon. Lisa P. Thornton.

In the below reference is an article as recently as January 6, 2023, written by Jeanne Wall in “The Tap Into Middletown” titled: Brookdale Community College Helps Launch Interpreting Jobs/Judicial, and Medical Interpreting Certificates Provide Career Building Opportunities. Hon. Lisa P. Thorton was respected a noted influencer, and a strong supporter of the above cause. To learn more about the Interpreting Jobs/Judicial and Medical Interpreting Certificates that Provide Career Building Opportunities for Spanish-speaking linguists mentioned above, click the link below.

Judge Thorton is pictured here with friend and co-worker Maryann Davison when they worked together at Prudential while she was attending law school at night to become a lawyer. Courtesy of Damiano Funeral Home

Thanks for reflecting on the impactful life of Hon. Lisa P. Thornton on Juneteenth, 2023.

Prays and blessings to the Thorton Family. Please enjoy Hezekiah Walker's "Better"

With the relaunched Echo, New Jersey's oldest Black-owned newspaper since 1904.

"In Concern of the Negro."

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