Robert Weninger, Texas Tech Law School’s long-serving professor, died Thursday in Lubbock after a valiant battle with cancer. He was 84.
Professor Weninger came to Texas Tech in 1974, after having begun his teaching career in San Diego, California. He held prestigious degrees, having obtained his law degree at the University of Wisconsin Law School and an advanced legal degree at the University of Chicago Law School. Before he became a professor, he was a trial attorney, first for the National Labor Relations Board and later for the Federal Public Defenders office in San Diego, California.
Professor Weninger was a highly-regarded scholar, whose work was at the forefront of empirical research, a demanding and important branch of legal scholarship. He pioneered the use of sociological data as a basis for critical analysis of the United States legal system. His work, characterized by detailed studies of important civil and criminal law topics including electronic discovery, the severity of jury sentencing compared to judicial sentencing, forcible rape indictments, and plea bargaining, was published in notable journals such as the Virginia Law Review, the UCLA Law Review and the Southern California Law Review. In his almost forty-four years at Texas Tech, he published ten cutting-edge studies in prestigious law journals. In almost all of his studies, he went into the field, examined case files, personally conducted interviews with the principal actors, and statistically analyzed data. Throughout his career he continued to be a productive and important scholar, most recently publishing an article last year in the Columbia Journal of European Law, analyzing Spanish class actions in light of the VW emissions scandal.
Professor Weninger was also an inspiring teacher. He regularly taught the first-year civil procedure course, oftentimes characterized as the most demanding course in law school curriculums, and also regularly taught an advanced seminar on complex litigation, which usually had a waiting list of students eager to meet the considerable challenges he gave them. His creative syllabus for that course included visits by famous Texas Tech alumni. His popularity as a teacher was reflected in the students’ term for his loyal followers: the “Order of the Weni,” the term for students who took a great many of his courses. Despite having taught litigation and evidence courses for years, he still devoted a great deal of time to refining his notes and thoughts to improve the students’ classroom experience. His students loved and appreciated him and expressions of the personal loss they feel with his death have flooded his colleagues’ in-boxes and the social media.
Moreover, Professor Weninger was a supportive and helpful colleague. He always encouraged young scholars’ research and career development. He set a model of dedication to his students that impressed upon his newer colleagues the importance of their own continued learning and hard work on behalf of students. Many of the younger professors have remarked that he had a profoundly positive influence on their careers.
He met his wife Sue, whom he adored and admired, in 1994, and together they were active community members, supporting the Democratic Party and the goals of social justice and equality. They were perfectly suited to each other, and shared their love of art, entertaining, and taking long walks. They also travelled extensively throughout the world, and they particularly loved their travels to Ireland, Canada, Costa Rica, Croatia, and their almost-yearly trips to Spain.
Throughout his life, Professor Weninger was close to his daughters Alexia and Carmen, doted on his two grandsons, and, despite his devotion to his research and teaching, always spent considerable time with his family, to whom he was always loving and supportive. A life-long learner, he had been studying Spanish for a number of years and practiced it with anyone willing to speak Spanish with him.
Besides his family and his job, Professor Weninger loved martinis and brats (he was from Sheboygan, Wisconsin), modern design (he lived in a spectacular house), animals (for years he cared for a group of feral cats that had adopted him in 2000), tennis and bicycling. In his last semesters at the school he continued to regularly bike to work and defeat much younger colleagues on the tennis court. In his younger years, he had been a pilot (he had the reputation of being something of a daredevil) and for many years he enjoyed teaching others how to fly.
He is survived by his wife Sue Weninger, of Lubbock, his daughter Carmen Elizabeth Weninger, of Vancouver, Washington, his daughter Judith Alexia Weninger and son-in-law Manuel Manjarrés of Granada, Spain, his grandchildren, Pablo and Nico, also of Granada, Alexia and Carmen’s mother, Belle Weninger, of Vancouver, Washington, his niece Lisa Weninger of Cary, Illinois, and his step-daughter Molly Porter, his son-in-law David Porter, and his grandsons Wyatt and Hudson, also of Chicago, Illinois. His brother Richard and his parents Alex and Meta predeceased him.
Given his long tenure at the law school and the thousands of students he has taught, his dedication, intelligence, kindness and unique sense of humor have had a tremendously positive impact on Texas Tech School of Law and the Texas Bar. His teaching, hard work, and keen mind will continue to be reflected in the strengths of Texas Tech law school alumni.
A memorial service will be held at the law school at the beginning of the next semester. Donations in his memory, which should mention his name, may be made to the Texas Tech Law School Foundation, 1802 Hartford Ave., Lubbock, Texas, 79409-0004, which will use the funds for a scholarship or prize in his memory.