The New Jersey State Bar Association offers 80 sections, committees and divisions for members to stay apprised of the latest trends in their specialty, shape legislation and become better attorneys for their practice and clients. The Criminal Law Section is one of the most vibrant in the Association. Amanda Dalton Clark, the new section chair, spoke recently about her history with the section, its purpose and how criminal law attorneys can benefit by joining. Visit njsba.com to learn more.
What kind of law do you practice and where?
I am an assistant prosecutor in Monmouth County, where I’ve been for six years, currently serving as a member of the trial team. Prior to that I was assistant counsel to Gov. Chris Christie, where I handled the criminal law portfolio, including all of the criminal law legislation, issues with state police, the state Attorney General’s office, alcohol beverage control, and even pardons – essentially anything that dealt remotely with the criminal code or something the governor needed advice on in a criminal law context. I also assisted with judicial and prosecutorial appointments. Before that I worked in the Union County Prosecutor’s Office as an assistant prosecutor. I began my career clerking for former state Supreme Court Justices Helen Hoens and Faustino Fernandez Vina.
When did you join the NJSBA and what inspired you to get involved with the Criminal Law Section?
I joined the state bar when I was in college, so I’ve participated in the bar since I was 21. I joined the Criminal Law Section because I wanted to get involved in more practice-specific issues. It interested me because the Criminal Law Section involves both prosecutors and defense attorneys. It offered a different perspective, not only to have my voice in the conversation but also to get insight into what criminal defense attorneys were thinking.
Why do you think New Jersey is an interesting place to practice criminal law?
New Jersey, although it’s a small state, has many different legal climates that can vary from county to county. That really makes our state unique. Even though you’re practicing the same law throughout all 21 counties, there really are different nuances from north to south, east to west. Particularly, New Jersey is often on the forefront of changing laws when you compare it to surrounding states. It’s a very close-knit legal community and just a great place to practice.
What are the plans for the Criminal Law Section in the coming year?
The plan is to increase membership and participation, and especially get younger prosecutors involved. Our continuing legal education programs will focus on ethics and our business meetings will involve more back-to-basics discussions. We hope to garner interest from both new and seasoned attorneys. If you’re new to the practice of criminal law or a young lawyer in general, you may not know how to approach the basic proceedings and if you’re seasoned, you will benefit from a discussion about nuanced practices in different counties. I find that it can be hard for attorneys to ask for help; this year our focus will be to provide programs on tips and tricks of that practice and have an open dialogue for new and experienced attorneys alike.
What do you envision for the future of the criminal law section and how it can stay relevant?
I think our voice has been heard and we will continue to involve ourselves in framing legislation. That includes advising the NJSBA’s Board of Trustees on what bills are being introduced and how we can better the practice of law throughout the state.