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Dedicated to service: Get to know the NJSBA Pro Bono Award winners for 2022 – Dillon J. McGuire, Seton Hall Law Student Teams

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 30, 2023
Contact: Thomas Nobile
Director of Communications
Tel: 732-937-7527
[email protected] 
   
NEW BRUNSWICK – On Feb. 15, the NJSBA will recognize 20 individuals across six award categories for their outstanding commitment to providing pro bono legal services to New Jersey’s underserved residents. Hear from two of the recipients—Dillon J. McGuire and two teams of Seton Hall law students—on their awarding-winning pro bono efforts. 
  
Editor’s note: This is the final article in a series featuring this year’s award recipients. The responses have been lightly edited.
  
Dillon J. McGuire—Distinguished New Lawyer Pro Bono Award 
The Distinguished Attorney Award recognizes an attorney in practice for 10 years or fewer. McGuire specializes in criminal defense and government and internal investigations with Pashman Stein Walder Hayden. In 2021, he argued before the state Supreme Court on behalf of the Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys—New Jersey on a pro bono basis in multiple cases involving the constitutionality of life sentences for juvenile defendants. 
     
What do you find most rewarding about pro bono advocacy, especially in the criminal defense space?
After my judicial clerkships, it was very important to me to land at a law firm with a dedication to public interest work. When I heard about Pashman Stein Walder Hayden, and the Justice Gary S. Stein Public Interest Center, it immediately caught my attention. I think what I enjoy most about pro bono advocacy in the criminal arena is that our involvement in high-impact litigation before the Appellate Division and Supreme Court can make an immediate difference in the lives of New Jersey residents. Far too often, defendants’ constitutional rights are cast aside by investigating officers, yet these officers routinely receive the benefit of the doubt from trial judges. In appropriate cases, our role as amici provides critical support for defense counsel and assists the Court in determining some of the broader policy implications of a particular case.
     
Why do you believe it’s important for young attorneys like yourself to take on pro bono work?
It’s extremely important for young attorneys to be involved in pro bono work. For me, pro bono assignments through the Justice Gary S. Stein Public Interest Center provided me with two invaluable opportunities. First, fighting for those who cannot fight for themselves is what attracted me to the practice of law in the first place. This is especially true in the criminal context, as an individual charged with a crime must defend themselves against the seemingly unlimited resources of the state. The opportunity to represent defendants as designated counsel for the state Office of the Public Defender in direct appeals has been particularly rewarding for me, as it allows more personal interaction with the defendants themselves. Second, pro bono work allowed me to get into court almost immediately and sharpen my oral and written advocacy skills while arguing as amicus.
     
Seton Hall Law Student Teams—Outstanding Law Student Pro Bono Awards
This award recognizes an individual law student or students who excelled in supporting pro bono or legal aid programs for underserved communities. A group of nine current and former Seton Hall Law students will receive the award for developing a series of informational videos for survivors of domestic and sexual violence, who represented themselves in restraining order hearings. The recipients are Erin N. Romano, Sarah Souaid, Mallory E. Garvin, Emre Tutuncu, Kaitlin R. Principato, Jaden W. Jackson, Brian M. Smith, Kiah B. Murphy and Alexis Mitchell. 
  
What interested you in performing pro bono service while still a law student? 
I had the lifetime honor of being a student in the Leadership Fellows Program for the Class of 2022. This pro bono program was established and has since been led every year by Professor Paula Franzese, a person nationally recognized for her legal eminence in housing justice and her passion for inspiring servant leadership in her students. She always told us, “There’s a force that meets good with good,” and advised us not to wait for someone else to do good, but be the person that meets every problem with a viable solution. Our final projects included pro bono services ranging from a coat drive to the video advocacy project for survivors of domestic abuse in obtaining necessary protection. We all leaned into the program and inspired change that will continue to inspire change.
–Alexis Mitchell 
     
How has the experience helped prepare you for a career in the law?
As anticipated, a project of this magnitude presented a multitude of challenges that cultivated a greater understanding of collaboration and leadership. Learning how to effectively work with classmates, professors and legal professionals was a lesson in patience, communication and grace. Additionally, I have seen improvement in my organizational and management skills. I am more confident in my decision-making ability. Moreover, I have developed a deeper sense of empathy and compassion for others. Perhaps the greatest reward, however, was the bond I formed with my colleagues throughout this process. 
–Jaden W. Jackson
 

Contact: NJSBA Communications Department
Tel: 732-937-7527
Email: [email protected]

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