New Jersey Women Lawyers Association – Record-Breaking Gala

MARCH 26, 2012
Wendy Johnson Lario, Esq.New Jersey Women Lawyers Association – Record-Breaking Gala
NJWLA President

New Jersey Women Lawyers Association – Record-Breaking Gala

On March 21, 2012, well over 600 guests gathered at the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, New Jersey for the NJWLA’s 5th Annual Women’s Initiative and Leaders in the Law Platinum Gala. This record number of guests, which included elite leaders of the bench and bar of New Jersey, came out to help the NJWLA honor notable members of the New Jersey judiciary, as well as accomplished attorneys from the public, private, and corporate sectors of the legal profession who support the NJWLA mission. This year, the NJWLA once again proudly bestowed its awards on several prominent and remarkable individuals, and was grateful to have the Honorable Madeline Cox Arleo, Magistrate Judge, United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, as Mistress of Ceremonies, to introduce each of the honorees.

The Honorable Marie L. Garibaldi, retired Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court and the first woman to serve on that Court, accepted the state judicial honor and the Legal Pioneer Award. In an on-going recognition of Justice Garibaldi’s groundbreaking contributions to women in the profession, the Legal Pioneer Award has been named in her honor and will bear her name in the future. The Honorable Susan D. Wigenton, United States District Judge for the District of New Jersey, was the federal judicial honoree in recognition of her exceptional achievements on the bench. The public sector honoree was Passaic County Prosecutor, Camelia M. Valdes, the first Latina county prosecutor in New Jersey. The law firm of Nukk-Freeman & Cerra, P.C. was honored for its innovative approach to the practice of law in the private sector of the legal profession. Lynn Feldman, Esq., Executive Vice-President and General Counsel for Wyndham Hotel Group, received the Platinum Award recognizing her high level of success and achievement in the corporate sector. Finally, each year, the NJWLA presents a Trailblazer Award to a person who has “blazed a trail” for women lawyers in New Jersey through hiring, promoting or mentoring women in the profession. Donald A. Robinson, Esq., of Robinson, Wettre & Miller, received this year’s Trailblazer Award.

In addition to this year’s honorees, the NJWLA was pleased to welcome Pulitzer Prize winning novelist, Anna Quindlen, as the Keynote Speaker at this year’s Gala. Ms. Quindlen addressed the path and progression of women in the workplace over the years and the important balance between work and family life that women continue to seek to achieve. Her inspirational words were met with a well-deserved standing ovation.

As part of its mission, the NJWLA also awards scholarships to three law students each year, one from each of New Jersey’s law schools. Once again this year, the NJWLA  had the honor of reviewing a multitude of worthy and impressive applications. The recipients of this year’s scholarships, each in the amount of $3,000, were Augusta O’Neill (Rutgers Camden), Courtney Roach (Rutgers Newark) and Colleen Faherty (Seton Hall).

President-Elect, Galit Kierkut, closed the awards program, anticipating another outstanding year and expressing her commitment to continuing the good work of the organization in order to meet and advance the NJWLA’s important goals and mission.

The Gala, spearheaded by Gala Chair Annmarie Simeone, was a highlight of a banner year for the NJWLA under the leadership of Wendy Johnson Lario who shared this year’s NJWLA achievements with the Gala guests. Membership, already in excess of 500, continues to grow. The organization expanded its reach by starting two new specialty sections for young lawyers and small firms/solo practitioners. Programming that aims to meet the needs of its members continues throughout the year, and includes sponsorship of a program featuring Dr. Anita Hill.

The NJWLA is an independent association of over 500 hundred lawyers in New Jersey. Its mission is to retain women in the legal profession through education and activism; promote its members to the highest levels of law firm, government, academic, community and corporate positions; and endorse qualified female attorneys for appointments to the state and federal judiciary. More information about the NJWLA, including membership materials, can be found at

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