By Sam Bojarski
Growing up, Fabiana Pierre-Louis said her parents would jokingly tell her she should become an “avoka” ‒ the Creole word for lawyer.
The thought remained in her mind until college.
“I would often come to my siblings’ defense when they got in trouble, so they would joke around and say that,” said Pierre-Louis, who spent her childhood days in Brooklyn and Irvington, New Jersey.
It might be safe to say Pierre-Louis chose the right career. After spending years as an attorney in public and private practice, Pierre-Louis was nominated by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy earlier this month to serve on the state Supreme Court. Once confirmed, Pierre-Louis will become the first black woman to serve as a Supreme Court justice in the state’s history.
“Fabiana is a star. She not only is a skilled lawyer and advocate possessed with great oral and written advocacy skills, she is widely respected and loved by everyone she works with, she lights up the room with her enthusiasm, compassion and friendly demeanor,” said Paul Zoubek, who first worked with Pierre-Louis in 2007 and serves as a partner at her current firm, Montgomery, McCracken, Walker & Rhoads.
Pierre-Louis, the daughter of Haitian immigrants who first settled in the U.S. about 50 years ago, has never forgotten her humble roots. Like numerous other Haitian immigrants who left the country to escape political instability and economic hardship, Pierre-Louis’s parents sought a better life for themselves and their children.
“Having parents who sacrificed so much for me, for our family, there was really no question growing up whether I was going to work hard and succeed in everything I did, because I knew that the only reason why I’ve had the opportunities that I had is because they made so many sacrifices,” said the 39-year-old Pierre-Louis, in an interview with the Haitian Times.
“So for me, I was always pushing so hard to do the best I could at every step of my life, because they gave up everything they had, and came to a new country where they didn’t speak the language and barely knew anyone, in order to give me these opportunities,” she added.
From a young age, Pierre-Louis knew that education was the ticket to advancement and a better life. Her parents, a New York City cabdriver and a patient transport aide at St. Vincent’s Hospital, respectively, emphasized the importance of education constantly.
Pierre-Louis recalled that “it wasn’t a question of whether we were going to go to college and attain advanced degrees, because that was something that was so important to my parents and my family.”
From her early-childhood days in Brooklyn, all the way up through her career as an attorney, Pierre-Louis has maintained close ties to the Haitian community.
“I have fond memories of being surrounded by a lot of friends and family members all speaking Creole, enjoying Haitian cuisine all the time, so that certainly made me who I am today,” she said.
When the family of seven moved from Brooklyn to Irvington, they joined extended family in the area and became part of one of the largest Haitian communities in New Jersey. During the 1980s, while Pierre-Louis was growing up, the town had a thriving Haitian Flag Day celebration, a tradition that has continued through the years.
While attending Rutgers University ‒ where she earned her bachelor’s and Juris Doctor degrees ‒ Pierre-Louis was an active member of the school’s Haitian Association. It was there, while completing her undergraduate studies, that she decided she wanted to be a lawyer.
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