A Supreme Presence

Justice Fabiana Pierre-Louis, an alumna of Rutgers Law in Camden, is the first Black woman to serve on the New Jersey Supreme Court

By Sam Starnes and James Foley

A pivotal step in the career of newly appointed New Jersey Supreme Court Associate Justice Fabiana Pierre-Louis occurred in the summer before her second year at Rutgers Law School in Camden when she attended a campus seminar for students interested in judicial clerk positions. “Having the opportunity to be exposed to judicial clerkships and learning about the benefits of working for a judge right after law school was instrumental in the path that I have taken,” Pierre-Louis said.

After earning her juris doctorate with honors in 2006, Pierre-Louis launched her legal career as a clerk for state Supreme Court Associate Justice John E. Wallace Jr. She would go on to work as a federal prosecutor and a defense lawyer with a private law firm. During her nine years at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey, she rose to the position of attorney-in-charge at the Trenton branch office and, later, attorney-in-charge at the Camden branch office. In both cases, she was the first Black woman to fill that role. When she returned to private practice, she did so as a partner at the firm of Montgomery McCracken in Cherry Hill.

In June, Governor Phil Murphy appointed Pierre-Louis to the state Supreme Court and the state senate unanimously confirmed her in August. Pierre-Louis said that the summer session on clerkships was just one of numerous ways that Rutgers Law in Camden helped her to achieve her groundbreaking accomplishment. “Having the opportunity to obtain a phenomenal education coupled with the fact that the people were wonderful, I’m really grateful and lucky I had the opportunity to go to Rutgers Law School in Camden,” she said.

The daughter of Haitian immigrants—her father was a New York City cab driver—she grew up in Brooklyn and Irvington, New Jersey. She earned a degree in political science from Rutgers–New Brunswick, where her older sister attended. Pierre-Louis, who served as vice president of the Black Law Students Association in her final year of law school, said she benefitted from many mentors in Camden. “I was the second person in my family to go to college, but I was the first person in my family to go to law school,” she said. “I didn’t really know many lawyers prior to starting law school.”

It was at the summer session on clerkships where Pierre-Louis met Rhasheda Douglas, an alumnus of Rutgers Law who organized the panel, who would become a mentor for her. Douglas, an assistant dean at Rutgers Law in Camden who oversees the school’s Minority Student Program, was thrilled at Pierre-Louis’ confirmation to the state’s high court. “She was born and raised in predominantly Black inner-city neighborhoods,” Douglas said. “To see her able to navigate and to ascend to the positions she has secured in her career, it’s a dream come true for her parents, I’m sure, and for her community members, as well as other Black boys and Black girls to look to her and see that it is possible to achieve their dreams.”

Kimberly Mutcherson, co-dean of Rutgers Law School in Camden—who also broke ground when she became the first woman, first Black person, and first LGBT law dean at Rutgers—praised Pierre-Louis. “It’s always wonderful when great things happen to good people, and Fabiana Pierre-Louis is a good person,” Mutcherson said. “Justice Pierre-Louis is not the first Rutgers Law graduate to sit on the New Jersey Supreme Court, but she is the first to make history in this way. She is obviously bright and accomplished, and I have no doubt that she will be a conscientious and empathetic justice during her years on the court. She will serve New Jersey and its people well.”

For related stories, visit “Cuban-Born Justice Inspired by Parents” and “Law Professor Instrumental in Landmark LGBT Decision” in the fall 2020 issue of Rutgers–Camden Magazine.

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