Martin Luther Haines 2d, 88, a former New Jersey Superior Court judge who championed the rights of the poor, minorities, women and children, died of heart failure Sunday at Virtua West Jersey Hospital in Marlton.
During his 12 years on the bench, Judge Haines, of Moorestown, published an extraordinary 164 decisions on topics ranging from civil rights to land use. He retired in 1990.
As a lawyer in 1966, he challenged the system of assigning lawyers to defend indigent clients without pay, which he said denied the poor a vigorous defense.
The state Supreme Court agreed with him, setting in motion legislation that created the state Office of the Public Defender.
In an oral history taped last year by the Burlington County Bar Association, Judge Haines advised young lawyers to "get into the whole civil rights business. . . . Lawyers can change the world, even just one lawyer."
Joseph Pinto, president of the county bar association, called Judge Haines "a fearless attorney and fearless judge."
"He challenged the powers that be with his impeccable logic on many occasions and didn't care who he stepped on," Pinto said.
Judge Haines wasn't reluctant to challenge tradition. In the 1980s, when it was customary for women to take their husbands' surnames, he ruled that children could bear either parent's last name.
Judge Haines was also a gifted administrator who served as Burlington County's assignment judge from 1981 to 1990.
"He set us out on a course of developing alternate means of disposing of cases," said retired Judge Harold B. Wells 3d. "He was a great believer in mediation, arbitration and voluntary agreements to settle cases."
He was instrumental in creating a child-custody mediation program and an early-settlement divorce program, and he allowed closed-circuit testimony from abused children.
Offered a promotion to the appellate division, he turned it down, saying that he had "too much fun as assignment judge," Wells recalled.
John A. Sweeney, the current assignment judge, praised Judge Haines' demeanor on the bench. "I never saw him lose his temper or his ability to control things that were going on in court," he said.
A native of Philadelphia, Judge Haines grew up in Vincentown and worked in his family's cranberry business as a boy. He graduated from Pemberton High School and followed his grandfather and father into a law career.
"He was a giant influence in my life," said his son, Martin "Guy" Haines 3d, who also became a lawyer. He was brilliant yet humble, his son said. "It was that quiet strength that inspired me the most," he said.
Judge Haines graduated from Lafayette College and the University of Pennsylvania Law School. His studies were interrupted by World War II. He became a Navy lieutenant and survived the sinking of two ships. The first was torpedoed during the invasion of Salerno, Italy, and three-fourths of the crew drowned. He was later on a destroyer that was hit by aerial bombs in the South Pacific.
Judge Haines earned his law degree after the war. He practiced law with his father and, later, with two partners in Mount Holly. He served as president of the County Bar Association and the New Jersey Bar Association.
After he retired, Judge Haines gave speeches and wrote commentary for newspapers including The Inquirer and the New York Times.
In his oral history, he said it was his duty as a former jurist to speak out against wrongs. "We have an obligation when we retire to expose what we know," he said.
Besides his son, Judge Haines is survived by his wife of 30 years, Berne; four stepchildren, Robin Potter, Barry Haines, Kim Thompson and Janice Mason; six grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Friday at the Old Historic Courthouse, 120 High St., Mount Holly. Contributions in Judge Haines' honor may be made to South Jersey Legal Services Inc., 745 Market St., Camden, N.J. 08102.