In the winter of 1960, 24 of the outstanding trial lawyers of Middlesex County met for dinner to honor Superior Court Judge Mitchell Cohen on his elevation to the Federal bench. Each of the counties major trial law firms was represented. Attendees included Henry Spitzer, Alfred Levinson, Jacob Levinson, Morris Brown, Albert Seaman, Judge Joseph Halpern, Richard Levinson, Paul Anderson and forgotten luminaries.
After this successful dinner, it was decided that this group should remain in force to promote the general education and good of the trial bar. In September of that year, a meeting was held and Alfred Levinson was elected the first President of the organization. Meetings were regularly held that year and a new President was elected in 1961 and every year thereafter.
In the 1960’s, the educational aims of the group were paramount. Four to six times per year a prominent out of state attorney would make the trek to Sally’s in Highland Park to address the group. The trial lawyers were fortunate in having America’s top trial lawyers come to them. The now legendary Alfred Julian, Mo Levine, Tom Lambert, Izzy Halpern, Joe Kellner and the like imparted their knowledge to the local trial layers.
In or about the late 1960’s, the Middlesex County Trial Lawyers became activists in the judicial system. The court was sinking under a staggering case load. The trial lawyers led by Morris Brown developed a system known as the Early Settlement Program. This was before the days of arbitration or mediation and was indeed their precursor. The trial lawyers provided the court with several mediation teams consisting of a plaintiff and defense lawyer. The team heard 15 or 20 cases in a day and attempted to settle them. The court was laudatory of the plan and its results. Other counties became interested in the plan and Morris Brown and Richard Levinson went to each of them. The plan became a statewide success.
The trial lawyers continued to flourish in the 1970’s. Lawyers like F. Lee Bailey, Ray Brown and Jack Fuchsberg (then a justice of the New York Supreme Court) came and spoke. Politics began to effect the trial bar with the first no-fault plans. The trial lawyers legislative committee attempted to make the law palatable. There were symposiums with this Countries leading opponents to the new law such as David Sargent. Judge Bryan Garruto, Judge Douglas Hague and Frank Lutz gave leadership and the Associations education plans proceeded successfully.
The trial lawyers sponsored seminars on advocacy with Al Julian; Judge Richard Cohen led a symposium on the municipal immunity law and panel discussions were regularly conducted. This kind of education has continued to the present. Regularly, the Assignment Judges have come to meetings and shared problems and discussed solutions. The trial lawyers have been addressed by all of the Assignment Judges commencing with Judge Halpern and followed by Judges Genofsky, Demos, Breitkopf, Longhi and now Judge Francis.
Most of the outstanding trial lawyers of Middlesex County have taken their turn with the President’s gavel. The 53 Presidents play like a who’s who of the Middlesex County Bar. This organization is proud to count among its past Presidents Judges Garruto, Hague, Cantor and Happas. Please view our past presidents.