Tonight, I was privileged to attend an event at which the Seton Hall Law School’s Women’s Law Forum honored Judge Wefing with its “Women of Substance” award. Approximately 150 people were present, including Chief Justice Rabner, Justices Lavecchia and Patterson, and many judges of the Appellate Division, as well as Seton Hall faculty, students, and a number of practitioners.
Dean Patrick Hobbs opened the festivities by noting Judge Wefing’s role as a “pioneer” in many different respects. One of those was the fact that Judge Wefing was the first graduate of Seton Hall Law School to serve on the Appellate Division. Law School Chaplain Nicholas Gengaro followed with the invocation. He took the opportunity to cite women of distinction from the Old and New Testaments as a parallel to Judge Wefing’s achievments as a woman jurist.
The Chair of the Women’s Law Forum, Katie Rigler, lauded Judge Wefing as a role model who displayed characteristics such as the ability to inspire, sound values, and selflessness. She praised Judge Wefing as “majestic” and cited her “brilliant intellect” and”immense grace.” On a lighter note, Ms. Rigler observed that Judge Wefing still finds time to go windsurfing and kayaking.
Judge Wefing was appointed toi the Superior Court by Governor Kean in 1983. She sat at first in Hudson County, a venue that Judge Wefing, in her own remarks, praised as the greatest place to practice law or be a judge. Later, she transferred to Essex County, where she served in the Chancery Division. In 1993, Judge Wefing was promoted to the Appellate Division. She became a Presiding Judge of her panel in 2004 and thereafter became Presiding Judge for Administration. In 2011, Chief Justice Rabner designated her to serve temporarily on the Supreme Court, a position she continues to hold.
Judge Wefing’s own remarks in accepting her award were typically self-effacing. She noted the changes that had occurred at Seton Hall Law School since she attended as a night student, one of only five women in that night school class. Four of those women, she observed, went on to become judges. Judge Wefing also noted a “beautiful symmetry” between the five women in her class and the five women who, until Justice Long’s recent retirement, had been sitting together on the Supreme Court. She thanked Seton Hall not only for giving her an education, but for giving her her husband, Professor John Wefing, whom she fell in love with as one of his students.
I have been appearing before Judge Wefing since at least 1987, at each of the three levels in which she has sat. It is always a pleasure to do so. She is a deserving recipient of this important honor.