New Attorneys Sworn In
By Mike Mathis
JT Briefing Editor
Several hundred of the state’s newest attorneys were admitted to the state and federal bars Dec. 3 during a ceremony at the War Memorial in Trenton.
On hand to welcome the new lawyers were members of the Supreme Court and the United States District Court, District of New Jersey.
“It is truly a noble profession you are entering,” said Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, who urged the new attorneys to serve by the public by volunteering their time and talent.
The chief justice administered the oath for admission to the state bar, while Garrett E. Brown Jr., chief judge for the United States District Court, District of New Jersey, swore in the new attorneys to the federal bar.
Supreme Court Associate Justice Jaynee LaVecchia told the newly-minted lawyers they were entering a profession that demands ethical and character fitness and that they must protect the constitutional privileges of their clients while working in a competitive and adversarial atmosphere.
“Having knowledge of the law is not enough to be a lawyer in New Jersey,” LaVecchia said. “We demand that our lawyers be honest and forthright. We believe in the nobility of our calling and we don’t take lightly our responsibility.”
LaVecchia also urged the new attorneys to perform free legal work on behalf of the less fortunate. As an example, she cited the more than 650 attorneys who have volunteered to participate in the state’s foreclosure mediation initiative.
“The best you can strive for is for people to hold you up as a model of success,” she said.
“We have a moral obligation to see the doors of the courthouse are open at all times,” said Peggy Sheehan Knee, president of the New Jersey Bar Association, who asked the new lawyers to act with integrity and personal courtesy and to treat everyone they encounter with respect.
The happy mood was somewhat tempered by the economic crisis that is pressing New Jersey’s poorest citizens who need legal assistance but can’t afford it.
Melville D. Miller Jr., president of Legal Services of New Jersey, Inc., called the situation a “civil justice gap” that will continue to grow as poverty rises.
About 1.8 million people in the state live in poverty, about 40 percent of whom are children, he said.
“We need help from many more lawyers,” Miller said. “Make (performing free legal work) a lifelong habit.
“The civil justice gap yawns ever wider,” he said. “Use what you’ve learned (in law school) to seek justice.”