History of Seton Hall Law School

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The History of Seton Hall University School of Law: 1951 - Present

Bishop James Roosevelt Bayley founded Seton Hall University in 1856. He named the University after his aunt, Sister Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American-born saint. Today, a total of more than 10,000 students attend Seton Hall's eight schools and colleges on the University's South Orange campus and the School of Law in Newark.

As early as 1937, a law school had been planned as part of Seton Hall University. But the demands of both the war years and the post-war influx of returning GIs delayed establishment of the law school until 1950. At that time, the New Jersey Supreme Court had adopted rules requiring candidates for bar admission to hold law degrees from law schools accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA). As a result, John Marshall Law School in Jersey City, New Jersey was forced to close. In June 1950, the administration of John Marshall gave its library and many of its assets to Seton Hall. In return, Seton Hall agreed to maintain and administer the records of John Marshall's graduates.

The following month, Miriam T. Rooney, then professor and chief librarian of Catholic University Law School was engaged to develop plans for the Seton Hall Law School. Over the course of the year, Rooney developed a curriculum and hired a staff. She then obtained provisional approval from the New Jersey Supreme Court and recruited an entering class. On February 5, 1951, Seton Hall University School of Law opened on the old John Marshall site, 40 Journal Square, Jersey City with an entering class of 72 students, 16 full-time and 56 part-time faculty members. Under Dean Rooney's stewardship, the first decade of Seton Hall Law School's existence was one of substantial growth. In September 1951, the law school moved from Jersey City to Newark, and in 1954, graduated its first class.

The following year, full ABA accreditation was granted; and in 1959, the law school became a member of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS). As the law school's enrollment grew to more than 300 students, Dean Rooney worked tirelessly to build the library collection and to upgrade faculty salaries. In the summer of 1961, when Dean Rooney returned to teaching full time, John P. Loftus succeeded her.

During Dean Loftus' tenure, the law school's student body expanded to nearly 1,000 students. The students worked together to establish the Student Bar Association, the Law Review and the student newspaper, Res Ipsa Loquitur.

When Dean Loftus retired in August 1971, John F.X. Irving was hired with a mandate to move forward in building better physical facilities and further expanding the faculty. Under his able leadership, the law school moved to 1010 Raymond Boulevard and the number of faculty members nearly tripled. In the fall of 1978, Reverend Daniel A. Degnan succeeded Dean Irving.

Dean Degnan placed particular emphasis on alumni relations, establishing the Alumni Office and the Alumni Council. When Dean Degnan's successful tenure ended in June 1983, he was succeeded by Elizabeth F. Defeis. Under the strong leadership of Dean Defeis, who served until June 1987, the law school's scholarly reputation in the world of legal academia grew along with the law school itself.

The physical plant finally proved to be inadequate for a law school of Seton Hall's size. In July 1988 when Dean Ronald J. Riccio took the helm, he assumed the mammoth task for arranging for financing and beginning construction of the magnificent $37 million facility located in the heart of Newark's business district which is home to Seton Hall Law School today. At a time when other organizations and businesses were leaving Newark, Seton Hall Law School is proud to have remained, playing a vital role in the Newark renaissance while becoming recognized as one of the finest law schools in the country.

During Dean Riccio's tenure, the law school achieved national recognition in a number of areas. It was ranked first in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area and second in the nation for student satisfaction in a survey conducted by the Princeton Review. The National Jurist, a popular student magazine, ranked Seton Hall 37th overall and second in judicial clerkship placement among the nation's ABA-approved law schools. Many innovative programs were initiated at Seton Hall Law School, including a nationally acclaimed Health Law & Policy Program. The program offers a Master of Law (LL.M.) degree as well as a Master of Legal Studies (M.L.S.) (formerly named the Master of Science in Jurisprudence (M.S.J.)) for a wide variety of professionals working in the health care, pharmaceutical or biotechnology industries. Seton Hall Law School’s M.LS. degree program is one of just two in the country and the only such program in the Northeast. It is, in part, because of Seton Hall’s solid reputation in health law that the New Jersey State Legislature recently chose the Law School as the site for a new Institute for Law and Mental Health designed to research and address current public policy issues.

When Dean Riccio stepped down in 1999, Dean Patrick E. Hobbs stepped in, building on a solid foundation and setting a course for recognition among the nation’s top Catholic law schools. Seton Hall Law School joined forces with the Seton Hall University School of Diplomacy & International Relations in South Orange to offer a dual degree, the Juris Doctor/Master of Arts in Diplomacy & International Relations (J.D./M.A.D.I.R.). Seton Hall Law School’s nationally ranked Health Law & Policy Program now offers two new health law graduate programs -- an MD/MLS (Doctor of Medicine/Master of Legal Studies) and an M.D./J.D. (Doctor of Medicine/Juris Doctor). Both programs are offered in combination with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey – Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, making it possible for students to earn both a J.D. and an M.D. degree in six years or an M.L.S. and an M.D. degree in five years.

At the start of the 2000-2001 academic year, Seton Hall Law School established the Institute for Law, Science & Technology. Designed to train the next generation of lawyers for the complex legal issues they will face in the Digital Information Age, the Institute also will provide continuing legal education, resources, and support to assist the growing technology and science communities in New Jersey, the nation and the global community. Through the university’s talented faculty and alumni together with industry leaders, scientists, judges, and policy makers, the Institute has become a forum for addressing the legal, political and social problems that arise as scientific and technological changes seemingly outstrip existing laws, rules, and norms on a daily basis. In 2001, the M.S. J. degree in Health Law was expanded to include tracks in science and technology. In 2002, Seton Hall Law School partnered with New Jersey Institute of Technology to offer a combined educational program whereby students earn a bachelor’s degree and a J.D. in six years instead of the traditional seven.

Seton Hall Law School is widely known and respected at home and abroad. The Law School offers a student pro bono initiative through its Center for Social Justice that provides legal services for more than 1,000 Newark citizens every year. The Center offers immigration/human rights, civil litigation, family law and juvenile justice clinics that help clients with a wide range of problems from domestic violence to the threat of deportation.

Seton Hall Law School participates in the Dean Acheson Legal Stage Program at the Court of Justice of the European Communities in Luxembourg. Over the past several years, Seton Hall Law School students have competed successfully against their peers from Columbia, Fordham, Georgetown, Harvard and New York University to secure prestigious positions with European Court justices. Finally, the Law School boasts a highly respected inter-scholastic moot court curriculum among its many programs designed to attract and train some of the best legal minds in the country.