Jane Barrett passed away on April 7, 2021, after a difficult battle with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). She had been staying with her family in Virginia Beach where she was staying with her family. She was 68. In Jane’s last days, she spent time near the water she loved so much; played with her granddaughter, Ellie; and was in the company of her beloved son Christian, his wife, Annie, family members and friends.
Jane lived to the fullest to the end, including enjoying March Madness. She met her ALS diagnosis with courage and determination, traveling to Boston to be trained on innovative speech devices and in recent months on the Eye Gaze Speech machine where she most recently communicated by having her eyes type out text and email messages. In the early years of her illness, Jane was supported by family and friends with great adventures and get togethers – including trips to Cuba, the Galapagos and Europe. The memories are priceless.
Jane’s distinguished legal career as a trial lawyer, state and federal prosecutor, white collar defense counsel and legal educator is storied and the stuff of legend. She was foremost devoted to serving the public interest and doing all the good she could for who she could when she could. Her avocation was mentoring others, in the law and life and, as her University of Maryland law students and legal colleagues knew well, she always had your back with support and good advice. As a single mother raising a young son, Jane was creative in managing the so-called work-life balance and achieving great success in life and law with a little help from all her friends and colleagues. Her stories of the early days at the U.S. Attorney’s Office getting ready for trial with kids here and there playing under tables, were hilarious, belying the real challenge of it all.
Jane’s love of the Chesapeake Bay and protecting our environment drove her passion in the environmental law field and many of her most loved recreational activities – kayaking, boating, nature walks, hikes, and cycling. She was a very active person with many varied interests and many diverse friends who loved her dearly.
Jane graduated with a B.A. from Loyola College in 1973 and with a J.D. from the University of Maryland School of Law in 1976. She started her legal career as an attorney with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and then joined the State of Maryland Attorney General’s Office to lead the Hazardous Waste/Environmental Crimes Task Force. Jane then served in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland, successfully pursuing groundbreaking environmental crime prosecutions and serving as the Chief of Environmental Litigation. In 1998, Jane entered private practice in Washington DC , working in environmental compliance and white collar defense as Partner for Dyer Ellis and Joseph and then Blank Rome. The capstone of her career was her appointment as tenured faculty and the Director of the Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Maryland Francis Cary School of Law in 2007, retiring as Law School Professor Emeritus in 2017. Jane loved young people and teaching law students. She was a lifelong learner with a sense of wondrous curiosity, even for the disease that has cut her beautiful life way too short.
After living in Baltimore and Washington for most of her career, Jane moved to a home on the Bay at Tolchester Beach in Kent County, Maryland in 2014. She was active in Sacred Heart Parish in Chestertown and in various community projects throughout the county, including serving as a pro-bono lawyer to the Chester River Association. After her diagnosis, Jane moved to Harbor’s Edge in Norfolk, Virginia to be near her son and his family; she was a member of The Basilica of St. Mary Catholic community in Norfolk.
In addition to son, Christian, daughter-in-law, Annie, and granddaughter, Ellie, Jane is survived by four siblings and their spouses (Barbara and David Foster, Philip and Linda Barrett, Richard and Carrie Barrett, and Christina and Terry Moss); 3 nephews (Jeremy Foster, Sean and Brian Barrett); 3 nieces (Lucia Foster, Megan Barrett and Melissa Morris); two grand-nieces (Brooke and Lindsay Morris); and one great-nephew (Wren Sebastian Foster).
In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made in Jane’s honor to I Am ALS or the ALS Association – DC/MD/VA Chapter.