Published April 7, 2023

Rutgers Law School student Starr Vega, above right, with U.S. District Court Judge Esther Salas, at left

U.S. District Court Judge Esther Salas, who holds two Rutgers degrees, reflects on her family tragedy and how she found inspiration to help others.

Rutgers Law School student Starr Vega was named the first recipient of the Daniel Anderl Memorial Scholarship, created in honor of Judge Esther Salas’s son, who was murdered by a disgruntled attorney at their home in 2020.

Salas and son
Salas with her son, Daniel Anderl

Anderl was 20 years old and planned for a career as an attorney when he was shot and killed. His father, Mark, was wounded in the attack. The scholarship created in his memory provides a $5,500 award to a Rutgers Law student. “Out of this senseless tragedy, we see light and we see this ability for students to go on and get an education in memory of my son,” Salas said in an episode of the Rutgers Law School’s podcast, Power of Attorney“Daniel’s senseless murder made sense of his life because Daniel lived every day like it was his last day. He enjoyed life.”

In the podcast, Salas, who earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Rutgers College in 1991 and a juris doctorate from Rutgers Law School in Newark in 1994, talks about overcoming roadblocks to the bench, her only son’s murder, the scholarship in his name, and the law she fought for to protect judges.

Vega, a third-year law student who earned a bachelor’s degree from the Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Science in New Brunswick in 2019, is a senior notes and comments editor for the Rutgers University Law Review. She also served as a student liaison to the New Jersey Association of the Federal Bar and a Minority Student Program Teaching Fellow. In addition, she’s worked as a summer associate at Riker Danzig and Chiesa Shahinian & Giantomasi law firms.

Salas presented Vega with a “Love is Light” necklace in her court chambers last month after she was named the scholarship recipient.

The scholarship award will alternate each year between Rutgers Law campuses. A Camden student will receive the award next year. Funded on an endowed basis, the scholarship will assist generations of students.

The endowment is made possible by many New Jersey lawyer cosponsoring associations and their members: Rutgers Law School–Newark Alumni Association, American College of Trial Lawyers-New Jersey State Committee, The Association of the Federal Bar of New Jersey, New Jersey Women Lawyers Association, WIN: Women in IP Network, Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey, and the Historical Society of the U.S. District Court of N.J.

Three other fully endowed scholarships have been established at Anderl’s former grammar and high schools in New Jersey and at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., where he finished his sophomore year at the time of his death.

Salas became the first Hispanic magistrate judge for the U.S. District Court in New Jersey in 2006. In 2011, she was nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed to her current position as U.S. District Court Judge for the District of New Jersey.

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