The Hon. Marilyn H. Loftus, a 1961 graduate of Rutgers School of Law–Newark and a national leader in efforts to eliminate gender bias in the courts, died on May 2. She was 75 years old.
Judge Loftus worked in the New Jersey Division of Law from 1961 to 1973, serving under attorney general Arthur J. Sills, a Democrat, and under attorney general George F. Kuglar, Jr., a Republican. From 1969 to 1973, she was first assistant attorney general and acting attorney general, the first woman to hold those positions. In 1973 she was appointed by Gov. William Cahill to the Superior Court, Newark, where she served on trial courts in criminal, civil, and family law matters. Judge Loftus was promoted to the Appellate Division in 1994 where she remained until her retirement in 1997.
In 1982 Judge Loftus was appointed by New Jersey Chief Justice Robert Wilentz to chair the New Jersey Supreme Court Task Force on Women in the Courts, the first such task force in the country. The task force made recommendations regarding attorneys’ behavior toward clients, witnesses and other attorneys. In 1985, the National Association of Women Judges, responding to the strong interest generated by the New Jersey task force, set up the National Task Force on Gender Bias in the Courts, with Judge Loftus as its chair, to encourage the formation of new task forces and to provide technical assistance to them.
The Women’s Rights Law Reporter article “Learning From the New Jersey Supreme Court Task Force on Women in the Courts: Evaluation, Recommendations and Implications for Other States,” written by Norma Juliet Wikler, Ph.D. and Lynn Hecht Schafran, Esq., singled out Judge Loftus for special recognition for promoting the task forces’ findings and recommendations and raising awareness among diverse audiences to issues of gender bias. (12 Women’s Rts. L. Rep. 313, 1991).
In 1986 Judge Loftus received the law school Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumna Award. She was a frequent speaker at Rutgers Law School events, most recently in 2009 at the Centennial symposium “Rutgers School of Law–Newark Celebrates Women Reshaping American Law.”
Judge Loftus served as president of the National Association of Women Judges in 1989 and in 1996 received the Joan Dempsey Klein NAWJ Honoree of the Year Award. She was appointed to the faculty of the National Judicial College in 1993 and to the National Judicial College board of visitors in 2005. A graduate of Marquette University, she was a member of the Marquette President’s Council.