November 17, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Wendy Solomon
NEW BRUNSWICK—The New Jersey Commission on Professionalism in the Law will again honor individuals who uphold the profession’s highest ideals and who have accomplished outstanding career achievement.
This year’s winners of its most prestigious awards, the Daniel J. O’Hern Award, Charles J. Hollenbeck Award and the Lighthouse Award, include a criminal defense attorney who litigated high-profile cases over a 50-year career, a senior appellate counsel in the Appeals Division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey, and a retired judge and attorney who helped launch the hospice movement through landmark right-to-die cases. This year marks the commission’s 25th anniversary.
Joseph A. Hayden Jr., a partner at Pashman Stein Walder Hayden in Hackensack, will receive the 2020 Daniel J. O’Hern Award. Sabrina G. Comizzoli, senior appellate counsel in the appeals division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey, will receive the 2020 Charles J. Hollenbeck Award. The Lighthouse Award will be given to retired Judge Paul W. Armstrong.
“The award recipients represent the best attributes of the legal profession. The Commission on Professionalism joins with its colleagues in recognizing the recipients for their dedication and commitment to the highest standards of professional integrity and personal courtesy while still vigorously advocating for the interests of their clients. We should all aspire to follow their example in our own professional endeavors,” said Karol Corbin Walker, chair of the commission.
From civil rights marches to criminal defense
Hayden has litigated complex, high-profile criminal cases during a 50-year legal career, including the trial of former basketball star Jayson Williams and Joseph Ferriero, the former Bergen County democratic chairman. He was also part of the team that investigated hiring practices in Governor Phil Murphy’s office. He served as a deputy attorney general in the organized crime and special prosecution section of the Division of Criminal Justice, where he tried the first wiretap case brought by New Jersey.
Hayden “has exemplified integrity, competence, high ethical standards and service to the bar and community,” wrote Justin P. Walder, a partner at Pashman Stein Walder Stein, who has known Hayden for more than 40 years, in his nomination letter.
Hayden has long been involved in social justice issues. While an undergraduate, he participated in the Selma civil rights march and was a volunteer in a bail program after the Newark riots while attending Rutgers Law School. As a trustee for Integrity House, he has worked for more than a decade with individuals in recovery from addiction and with former Governor James McGreevey on his prisoner re-entry projects, and serves on the board of the New Jersey Re-Entry Commission.
Hayden has received numerous accolades, including the commission’s Professional Lawyer of the Year Award. He served on the New Jersey State Bar Association Judicial Prosecutorial Appointments Committee, was a founder and first president of the Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers of New Jersey and served as president of the Association of the Federal Bar, from which he received the Justice William J. Brennan Award.
Representing the federal government with integrity
Comizzoli was selected for the Hollenbeck Award for serving a governmental agency with diligence, competence and dedication to the profession. She has served in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey for 18 years.
“She has represented the federal government with integrity; she has exhibited a tireless work ethic, served as a model of professionalism, and mentored her junior colleagues—especially women—in their career path,” Kerri E. Chewing, president of the Association of the Federal Bar of New Jersey, wrote in her nomination letter.
As senior appellate counsel, Comizzoli is primarily responsible for briefing and arguing criminal cases before the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, having argued 16 cases to date. For the past 10 years, she has served as an ethics advisor to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, providing officewide training, guidance and legal advice to employees on government ethics matters, such as conflicts of interest, recusals and outside activities.
From 2010 to 2018, Comizzoli was a member of the U.S. attorney’s core leadership team, serving as executive assistant U.S. attorney, chief of staff and counsel to the U.S. attorney, and was responsible for a variety of critical functions in support of case-related policy and administrative matters. In addition, she served for two years as the chief of the government fraud unit in the Criminal Division, where she supervised a team of prosecutors responsible for investigating and prosecuting criminal offenses affecting agencies of the federal government.
Prior to joining the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Comizzoli was an assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Bureau of the Office of the New York State Attorney General, where she handled affirmative civil rights litigation. She clerked for Judge Shiara A. Scheindlin in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and for Judge Maryanne Trump Barry in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.
Comizzoli was president of the Association of the Federal Bar of New Jersey and serves as a member of the executive committee for the C. Williard Heckel Inn of Court.
A pioneer in patients’ rights
Armstrong, who will receive the Lighthouse Award, currently serves as a senior policy fellow at the Bloustein Institute for Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. He also serves on the New Jersey Department of Health COVID-19 Professional Advisory Committee. The Lighthouse Award honors an attorney or judge whose professional and community-based efforts serve as an inspiration to colleagues.
While serving as a Somerset County Superior Court judge for 18 years, Armstrong presided over many notable cases, including serial killer nurse Charles Cullen. As an attorney, he was a pioneer of patients’ rights and argued several landmark cases before the New Jersey Supreme Court and U.S. Supreme Court. He successfully argued the Karen Ann Quinlan case, which became a catalyst for the hospice movement. And his representation in the case of Nancy Beth Cruzan, a car accident victim, helped promote greater use of living wills and advance directives.
He was a principal draughtsman and legislative architect of the New Jersey Advanced Directives for Health Care and the Declaration of Death Acts.
Armstrong has served as chairman of the New Jersey Bioethics Commission and the Governor’s Advisory Council on AIDS. He is an adjunct professor at Rutgers Law School-Newark and the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, where he teaches about the interrelationship of medicine, ethics and law.
“Judge Armstrong is a brilliant jurist who served with distinction for 18 years during which time he treated litigants and attorneys alike with the utmost dignity and respect. He is a consummate gentleman to all who have the privilege to interact with him,” said Heidi Ann Lepp, president of the Somerset County Bar Association.
“After retirement from the bench, he continues to reflect the ideals of professionalism through his extensive pro bono work teaching as a senior policy fellow at Rutgers University, serving on advisory committees and continuing to work with the Samaritan Homeless Interim Program, of which he was a founding member.”
2020 Professional Lawyer of the Year Award recipients
The New Jersey Commission on Professionalism in the Law first presented the Professional Lawyer of the Year Awards in 1997. In cooperation with the New Jersey State Bar Association, county and affinity bars, these awards are presented to lawyers who are respected by colleagues for their character, competence and exemplary professional behavior. Here are this year’s honorees:
Atlantic County Bar Association – Melissa Rosenblum
Bergen County Bar Association – Judge Brian R. Martinotti
Burlington County Bar Association – Alan H. Schorr
Camden County Bar Association – Steven K. Mignogna
Cape May County Bar Association – Carol N. Goloff
Cumberland County Bar Association – Charles J. Wettstein
Essex County Bar Association – Judge Harriet Farber Klein (ret.)
Gloucester County Bar Association – Peter J. Celano Jr.
Hudson County Bar Association – Lisa Marie DeRogatis
Hunterdon County Bar Association – Michelle M. Cresti
Mercer County Bar Association – Denise M. Mariani
Middlesex County Bar Association – Judge Frank Ciuffani (ret.)
Monmouth Bar Association – James N. Butler Jr.
Morris County Bar Association – Kathleen N. Fennelly
Ocean County Bar Association – John J. Foti Jr.
Passaic County Bar Association – Salvatore Bellomo
Salem County Bar Association – Terry Bruce Stomel
Somerset County Bar Association – Joel G. Cohen
Sussex County Bar Association – Megan MacMullin
Union County Bar Association – Judge Katherine Dupuis (ret.)
Warren County Bar Association – Jennifer L. Toth
Asian Pacific American Lawyers Association – Andrew Sarrol
Association of Black Women Lawyers – Norma R. Evans
Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers of New Jersey – John A. Azzarello
Association of the Federal Bar of New Jersey – John B. Kearney
Garden State Bar Association – Natalya G. Johnson
Hispanic Bar Association – Julia A. Lopez
New Jersey Association for Justice – Christopher M. Placitella
New Jersey Defense Association – Michael A. Malia
New Jersey Muslim Lawyers Association – Rabiya S. Kader
New Jersey State Bar Association – Evelyn Padin
New Jersey Women Lawyers Association – Dina M. Mastellone
South Asian Bar Association of New Jersey – Rahil Darbar
Trial Attorneys of New Jersey – Michael R. Ricciardulli
The Professionalism Awards are traditionally presented at an annual luncheon but will not be held this year because of the pandemic. Visit the commission’s web page under the resources tab at njsba.com to read more about the 25th anniversary and the award recipients. A video of Hayden, Comizzoli and Armstrong making their acceptance speeches is available on the web page and the NJSBA Facebook page, and their speeches can be read on the CommunityNET blog at njsba.com.