Alumni Association to Honor Ronald Chen, Ann Berger Lesk, Nancy Erika Smith, and Neil Mullin at Oct. 15 Awards Dinner
October 14, 2009 –More than 400 people will be in attendance at the Hilton at Short Hills on Thursday, October 15, 2009 when the Alumni Association of Rutgers School of Law–Newark recognizes the accomplishments of the Honorable Ronald K. Chen, Ann Berger Lesk, Nancy Erika Smith, and Neil M. Mullin. Chen, New Jersey Public Advocate, will receive the Fannie Bear Besser Award for Public Service. Lesk, partner of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP, and Smith, partner of Smith Mullin, PC, will receive a Distinguished Alumna Award. Mullin, partner of Smith Mullin, PC, will receive a Distinguished Alumnus Award.
Ronald Chen, Class of 1983, became the first Public Advocate of New Jersey in 13 years when the Department of the Public Advocate was restored in 2006. As a member of the Governor’s Cabinet, he is charged with providing advocacy for several constituencies, including elder citizens, persons with disabilities, mental health consumers, and ratepayers. Among his other duties as Public Advocate, Chen chairs the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Advisory Panel on Immigrant Policy. He also sits on the State Planning Commission. Prior to becoming the Public Advocate, Chen was Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at Rutgers School of Law–Newark, Acting Director of the Minority Student Program, Director of Financial Aid, and an Assistant Professor of Law. He taught contracts, federal courts, constitutional law, and church-state relations and provided pro bono legal representation to a host of clients on a range of civil rights and constitutional law cases. Chen was an active lay leader of the American Civil Liberties Union. He first served as a trustee on the New Jersey affiliate board from and then was elected to ACLU’s national board. In 2002, he was elected by the national board to serve on the National Executive Committee. He was named the New Jersey Law Journal’s “Lawyer of the Year” for 2007.
|Shown at the law school after an annual dinner planning meeting are (l-r): David Garber ’88, Scott Walker ’00, Robert Goldsmith ’77, and Dean John Farmer.|
Nancy Erika Smith, Class of 1980, practices in the area of employment and civil rights law for plaintiffs. In 2000, she was elected a Fellow of the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers. Smith has tried many cases to successful verdict and won many appeals that have resulted in published opinions. Notable cases include: establishing the right of siblings of children who are HIV positive to attend public school (Truax v. Washington Twp.); confirming the State’s commitment to eradicating discrimination based on pregnancy (Rendine v. Pantzer), disability (Levinson v. Prentiss Hall), age (Zacharias v. Whatman and Rathemacher v. I.B.M.), marital status (Slohoda v. UPS), gender (Kessler v. WWOR-TV), and sexual orientation (Caggiano v. Fontura). She has also litigated cases on behalf of victims of sexual harassment (Gerardi v. Multi-Lock) and victims of retaliation after whistle blowing (Jorgenson v. Prudential). She was pro se co-counsel with her husband and partner Neil Mullin for many years in Landano v. State, a habeas corpus action that resulted in the exoneration of a man who was wrongfully convicted and spent 18 years in prison. Smith served for two years as chair of the Labor and Employment Law Section of the New Jersey State Bar Association and has served on its Executive Committee for more than 20 years. She is an author and a member of the editorial board of New Jersey Labor and Employment Law.
Neil Mullin, Class of 1979, has devoted his legal career to fighting for civil rights and the rights of employees. In State v. Landano, he reaffirmed the rights of defendants to be provided by prosecutors with all evidence of innocence and, before the U.S. Supreme Court, he, joined by his wife and partner Nancy Erika Smith as co-counsel, successfully argued for an expansive reading of the Freedom of Information Act. Mullin’s extensive trial experience, including numerous large verdicts, has been in the service of civil and employee rights. He has, for example, in Mehlman v. Mobil, a case he tried to a $7.5 million jury verdict and argued successfully in the Supreme Court of New Jersey, protected the right of a toxicologist of a major oil company to speak out against a grave environmental hazard. Working with the U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, he recently achieved a settlement in a federal false claims act action in excess of $345 million, Pironti et al v. Schering Plough, in which he exposed a massive fraud on Medicaid by a major pharmaceutical firm. Mullin is a Fellow of both the American College of Trial Lawyers and the American College of Labor and Employment Lawyers. He and his wife helped established the Arthur Kinoy-Morton Stavis Fellowship at Rutgers Law School for deserving students interested in public interest law.