2013 Commencement Speaker

Virginia Long

The Honorable Virginia Long

Doctor of Laws

View Justice Long's 2013 Commencement Address (PDF)

Rutgers University takes great pleasure in paying tribute to one of its most distinguished alumnae and in welcoming The Honorable Virginia Long as the 2013 University Commencement speaker. In recognition of her venerable public service as a champion for the rights of individuals, Rutgers is proud to bestow an honorary degree on Long. 

Currently of counsel at Fox Rothschild LLP in Princeton, New Jersey, Long joined the firm in March 2012 after retiring with 12 years of service as an Associate Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court. Appointed in 1999 to the high court, Long was granted tenure in 2006. She chaired and served as a member of numerous Supreme Court committees, including Extrajudicial Activities and Judicial Performance. Long previously served 15 years in the Appellate Division and as Deputy Attorney General for the state of New Jersey, as director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, and as commissioner of the former New Jersey Department of Banking. In addition to these roles, she spent many years as a judge in other New Jersey courts.

As one of the first women judges of her time, Long always held to very high standards and helped pave the way for other women in law. During her illustrious career of more than four decades, she wrote more than 2,000 opinions ranging from zoning laws to sexual abuse claims against clergy to death penalty cases, but is perhaps most known for her stance related to the death penalty, which she believed was impossible to apply rationally and consistently. With others, she has been credited with informing the decision of the New Jersey legislature to abolish the death penalty entirely in 2007, substituting life imprisonment without the possibility of parole as the applicable punishment.

Long’s judicial opinions have had an impact on the lives of people statewide and addressed such topics as establishing standards for determining who constitutes a “psychological parent”; determining that the refusal to renew the employment contract of an employee over the age of 70 violated the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination; first recognizing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a basis for workers’ compensation and disability retirement benefits; and noting that any physician who performs a physical examination on behalf of a third party, such as part of a preemployment exam, has a duty to advise the examinee of any negative findings.

At Fox Rothschild, Long assists clients with ethics and appellate matters and corporate governance and governmental integrity investigations. She also serves as a mediator and arbitrator providing dispute resolution alternatives. Regarded as a person of profound humanity, she spearheads the firm’s pro bono efforts in New Jersey. Using her role on the board of directors of the Centurion Ministries, a nonreligious and nonprofit agency, Long works with her colleagues to provide free legal services for incarcerated individuals in the United States and Canada who are factually innocent of the crimes for which they have been unjustly incarcerated and sentenced to either life or death. She was named to the working group formed to discuss pro bono service requirements for prospective bar applicants by the Chief Justice of New Jersey. She is also a member of the board of trustees of Legal Services of New Jersey.

Long earned a bachelor’s degree from Dunbarton College of Holy Cross in 1963 and, in 1966, received her J.D. degree from the Rutgers School of Law–Newark, one of only four women in her class of 125. After graduation, she joined the New Jersey State Attorney General’s office and quickly ascended the governmental and judicial ranks. In 1978, she was appointed to the New Jersey Superior Court, where she presided over civil, criminal, and family law cases. She served as the general equity judge for Mercer, Somerset, and Hunterdon counties from 1983 until 1984, followed by an appointment to the Appellate Division, and in 1995 became a presiding judge.

Long has received numerous commendations for her work. In 2001, Long was inducted into Rutgers’ Hall of Distinguished Alumni and honored as a New Jersey Woman of Achievement. She was the recipient of the 1999 Fannie Bear Besser Award for Public Service given by the Rutgers School of Law–Newark. She also was the recipient of a number of other prestigious awards, including the 2013 James J. McLaughlin Award by the Civil Practice Committee of the New Jersey State Bar Association. In 2012, she received the Marie L. Garibaldi Award for Distinguished Service and Excellence from the Women in the Profession Section of the New Jersey State Bar Association and the Serpentelli Award from the New Jersey State Bar Association Family Law Section. A fellow of the American Bar Foundation since 1984, she is a member of the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct, the New Jersey Law Revision Commission, the New Jersey Law Journal Editorial Board, and the New Jersey State Bar Association. She is married to Jonathan Weiner Esq., a partner at Fox Rothschild, and is the mother of three and the grandmother of five.