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State jurists share wisdom with NJSBA Leadership Academy

December 19, 2022
Contact: Thomas Nobile
Director of Communications
Tel: 732-937-7527
[email protected] 
NEW BRUNSWCIK – A trio of experienced New Jersey judges imparted their insights last week to fellows from the New Jersey State Bar Association’s Leadership Academy.
State Supreme Court Justice Anne M. Patterson, Appellate Judge Hany A. Mawla and Superior Court Judge Stephen L. Petrillo met with fellows at the New Jersey Law Center, where they took questions and ruminated on their decades in the Judiciary, their career arcs and memorable cases.
The panel was part of a yearlong series of programs for the 18 fellows to learn leadership skills, improve their communication and understand the legislative process and issues confronting the profession.
After 12 years with the state Supreme Court, Justice Patterson told the fellows that her service on the court is “beyond a dream job” and the only role she would have left practice for. She started as an attorney for Riker Danzig, specializing in pharmaceutical defense. But her path to the bench began when she met an attorney in private practice named Chris Christie, who she tried cases with in the ‘90s. Years later as governor, he tapped her for the Supreme Court.
“There was no one more shocked than I was to get a call from him a few months after he became governor,” Justice Patterson said.
Judge Petrillo’s journey was less conventional. For a decade he held various jobs, including limousine driver and AT&T sales rep, while attending night school for his bachelor’s degree, he said.
“I always wanted to be an attorney. It’s the most rewarding career I could have envisioned for myself,” he said.
Judge Petrillo was appointed to the bench in 2016, but it was a longtime friendship with someone who happened to become a state senator who helped him make the connections to join the bench. Relationships, Judge Petrillo told the fellows, are the single greatest component of professional success.
“It will never hurt you to be smart and hardworking, but being smart and hardworking without relationships will never get you over certain thresholds. It is vital to cultivate relationships,” he said.
Judge Mawla became the first Muslim jurist in the state at age 36. He started as a family law clerk in Essex County and shook as many hands as he could to build a reputation and network, he said. Joining the Judiciary was “not on the radar,” he said, but his policy was “never to say no” to any opportunity.
“Judges don’t usually become judges at 36. My partners thought I was crazy for leaving private practice and cutting off my earning potential,” Judge Mawla said. “But the bottom line is you never know what door will open for you.”

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


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