TRENTON - Marie Garibaldi, 81, the first woman to serve on the New Jersey Supreme Court and the author of an opinion requiring elite social clubs at Princeton University to admit women, has died.

Colleagues say she was fair and calm, and kept her network of 46 former clerks together like a family. She never dwelled on her role as a pioneer for women in the legal profession, said Judge Patrick DeAlmeida, a former clerk.

"She was a really loving person," he said. "She was the paradigm of what you should be as a judge."

Garibaldi died Friday at Hackensack University Medical Center, where she was on the board, said chief of staff Jose Lozano.

Gov. Christie said Garibaldi had the ability to cut through jargon and drill down to the most important issues in a case.

"Justice Garibaldi's passing is a true loss to our state," Christie said in a statement.

Gov. Thomas H. Kean appointed Garibaldi to the Supreme Court in 1982, and she served until 2000. She became the first woman to head the state bar association in 1982, and served until her appointment to the court.

Garibaldi, a tax law expert, wrote more than 225 opinions and served on dozens of committees.

In 1990, she wrote the opinion in Frank v. Ivy Club. Sally Frank, a Princeton student, filed a lawsuit against the men-only clubs.

Garibaldi wrote that the clubs had to end their practice of excluding women purely on the basis of gender.

Before her appointment, she served as a prosecutor for the IRS before going into private practice.

Chief Justice Stuart Rabner said she left behind "an army of admirers."

"She was a vibrant and intellectually curious person right up until the end of her life," Rabner said. "We are grateful to her for all that she left us."