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Betty Lester, Renee Jones Weeks and Michael Wright, Distinguished Alumni Jurists, to Be Honored at “Jazz for Justice”

October 18, 2010 – 
The Association of Black Law Students (ABLS) at Rutgers School of Law–Newark will recognize the contributions to the State’s legal and social communities of the Hon. Betty J. Lester ’71, the Hon. Renee Jones Weeks ’73, and the Hon. Michael Wright ’89 at the group’s 20th Annual Jazz for Justice. The theme of this year’s annual fundraiser is “Footsteps: Those Made and Those Left to Tread.” Keynote speaker for the Friday, November 12, 2010 dinner is Julien X. Neals, City of Newark corporation counsel. Music will be by the Bradford Hayes quartet.

Jazz for Justice will take place at Newark’s Best Western Robert Treat Hotel from 7 pm to midnight. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Wanda Green Memorial Scholarship Fund, established by Donita Judge ’03 and ABLS to provide tuition assistance to a law student who in some way was affected by the events of September 11, 2001 or Hurricane Katrina. Wanda Green was a flight attendant on United Flight 93. Contact jazzforjustice2010@gmail.com or 201-349-1301 for information about tickets and sponsorship opportunities.

After her graduation from Rutgers Law School, Betty Lester worked for the Office of the Public Defender, the Office of the Public Advocate, and a private corporation. She was appointed to the Newark Municipal Court in 1977 and served as Presiding Judge of the Newark Municipal Court from 1979 until1985, the first woman to hold that position. In 1985 Judge Lester became the first African-American woman appointed to the Superior Court in Essex County and the second in the State. She was the first woman to serve as the Presiding Judge of the Criminal Division of the Essex County Superior Court (1996-1999). She retired from the bench in 2009.

Renee Weeks spent 20 years on the bench, retiring as a judge of the Essex County Superior Court in 2009. She served in the Family Part, Criminal Part, Civil Part, and General Equity and Probate Part, principally in Essex County. She was the first African‐American woman to preside in New Jersey’s General Equity and Probate Court as well as Essex County’s first African‐American appointed to that court. After law school she worked in the New Jersey Attorney General’s office before becoming the first African-American woman assistant general counsel at Prudential Insurance. In 1975 she co-founded and was the first President of the Association of Black Women Lawyers of New Jersey.

Following law school Michael Wright served as a clerk for the Hon. Marianne Espinosa, J.S.C. In 1990 he became the first African-American assistant prosecutor in Morris County. He established a solo practice four years later, focusing on criminal defense representation. He returned to the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office in 2005 as chief assistant prosecutor. Two years later he became the first African-American appointed to the Superior Court in the Morris/Sussex vicinage, assigned to the Special Civil Part of the Civil Division. In 2009 he was assigned to the Family Division.