New Jersey State Bar Association - The voluntary Bar Association of New Jersey, serving members since 1899.

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Civil Trial Bar to honor Hamlin and Harbeson

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - The Civil Trial Bar Section of the New Jersey State Bar Association will present its prestigious James J. McLaughlin Award to two long-time NJSBA members on Tuesday, Sept. 11. The Hon. C. Judson Hamlin and Robert G. Harbeson will be honored at the Hyatt Regency in New Brunswick. Presented annually by the section, the award recognizes civility, legal competence and professionalism in the practice of civil trial law.

“In this day of best practices, intense competition and stress, it is important to remember that we are a profession, and those that exemplify that professionalism should be recognized and rewarded,” said Bruce H. Stern, Civil Trial Bar Section chair.

Hon. C. Judson Hamlin

“I am absolutely delighted and honored to be recognized,” said Hamlin, a graduate of Providence College who received his law degree from New York University School of Law in 1963. “Just being associated with Jimmy McLaughlin is a pretty big honor for me.”

Hamlin, who retired from the bench in 1998 and accepted an of counsel position at Purcell Ries Shannon Mulcahy & O’Neill, served on the superior court for 20 years. He concluded his judicial service as presiding judge of the Civil and Chancery divisions of Middlesex County Superior Court.

During his judicial tenure, Hamlin was assigned statewide responsibility for complex mass tort matters. He managed statewide litigation involving breast implants, Norplant contraceptive devices, the Global Landfill, large-scale environmental claims, the Durham Woods Gas pipeline explosion cases, and complex coverage actions. He also presided over, and successfully completed, the Prudential Brokerage class actions filed in New Jersey.

Hamlin, a member of the New Jersey State Bar Association for 24 years, was appointed first assistant prosecutor of Middlesex County in 1971. In 1974, Governor Brendan Byrne appointed him Middlesex County prosecutor, a position he held until 1978. As the chief law enforcement officer for one of New Jersey’s most densely populated counties, his responsibilities included oversight of major corruption probes, supervision of a staff of over 100 employees, budget management and media relations.

Over the years, Hamlin sat on several New Jersey Supreme Court committees, and was appointed by the late Chief Justice Robert Wilentz in 1993 to be the sole New Jersey representative on the Mass Tort Litigation Committee of the National Conference of State Chief Justices. He also was appointed by Chief Justice Deborah Poritz to chair the Mass Tort Advisory Committee of the New Jersey Supreme Court, which completed its report in 2000.

Upon his retirement from the bench in 1998, Hamlin, agreeing to create and develop Purcell Ries’ alternative dispute resolution (ADR) practice group. In addition to establishing the firm’s ADR practice, he has been selected to serve as a special master in complex litigation involving mass torts and large-scale insurance coverage actions brought by Fortune 500 companies.

In 1999, United States District Court Judge Louis Bechtle appointed Hamlin interim claims administrator of the National Diet Drug Class Action Settlement Trust. Upon judicial approval of the class action settlement, he was appointed executive director of claims administration for the trust, a position he held through 2001.

In 2001, the Hon. Rosemary Gambardella, chief judge of the New Jersey Bankruptcy Court, appointed Hamlin representative of future claimants in the G-1, asbestos Chapter XI matter. In 2002, he was appointed compliance master by the Superior Court of New Jersey for the Cooper Tire $2 billion national class action settlement. In that position, he monitored compliance with the settlement, which resolved consumer claims and reconfigured manufacturing, inspection and warranty practices nationwide. Also in 2002, the state attorney general selected Hamlin to oversee the New Jersey Pension Fund’s securities fraud litigation against the securities industry. In that capacity, he coordinated the selection of securities litigation firms to represent the pension funds and supervised six national class action filings. He completed his assignment in 2006, after class action settlements were reached in excess of $2 billion.

Hamlin served as a trustee of the NJSBA in 2004-2005. He is a member of the Middlesex County Bar Association, the Association of the Federal Bar, the American Bar Association, and a life fellow of the American Bar Foundation. He currently serves as a trustee of the Trial Attorneys of New Jersey, and has completed terms as trustee of the Middlesex County Bar Association and the Vicinage VIII Ethics Committees and served two terms as a member of the Supreme Court Civil Practice Committee. The Middlesex County Bar Association honored him with its Lawyer Achievement Award for 2006.

“Jud Hamlin embraces all of the qualities you look for in a true professional,” said Richard Badolato, one of last year’s McLaughlin Award winners. “As a judge he has always been fair. No matter how well he knows you, or what may have happened in the past, he never puts his thumb on the scale. At the same time, he has a great sense of humor, and doesn’t take himself too seriously.”

Robert G. Harbeson

“I was surprised and wildly pleased to be considered by the state bar for this award,” said Harbeson. “I’ve had the very great privilege of knowing Jim McLaughlin over the years…He has set a high standard for civility and professionalism…I’m very proud to be considered as even a junior varsity member of his club.”

For more than 30 years, Harbeson, a partner at Archer & Greiner, has been engaged in jury trial litigation. His primary emphasis has been with personal injury-related trial work in both state and federal courts. With a background in medicine and anatomy, he has specialized in the general areas of insurance litigation, contract interpretation, products liability and a wide spectrum of bodily injury claims, primarily defense in a jury setting.

Harbeson has been engaged in almost exclusively the trial of personal injury-related litigation. While primarily doing jury work he also handles litigation insurance coverage questions and has an extensive background in workers’ compensation, primarily for large corporate self-insured respondents. Additionally, he has been engaged in labor litigation, Dram-Shop liability litigation, medical and legal malpractice and products liability litigation.

He received his bachelor’s degree in English from Gettysburg College in 1968 and his law degree from Rutgers University in 1971, where he was editor of the Law Journal. After clerking for two years, he took a position at Archer & Greiner in 1971, and has been a partner since 1976.

Active in both the county and state bar associations, Harbeson has served as a trustee of the Camden County Bar Association, chair of the Personal Injury Law Committee and a member of the Bench-Bar Committee and the State and Local Differentiated Case Management Committee. He continues to sit on the executive committee of the NJSBA’s Civil Trial Section, chairing the section between 1984 and 1986, and was a member of the New Jersey Supreme Civil Practice Committee from 1984 to 1988. From 2004 to the present, he has served on the New Jersey District IV Ethics Committee.

Harbeson has been a trustee of the Trial Attorneys of New Jersey since 1988, and was a founding member of the Camden Chapter of the American Inns of Court. He was one of the inaugural members of the American Board of Trial Advocates, serving as the South Jersey Chapter president from 1992 to 1997. Certified as a Civil Trial Attorney by the Supreme Court of New Jersey Board of Trial Attorneys in 1992, and re-certified in 1989, 1996 and 2003, he is in a frequent lecturer on trial practice and trial procedure at the county and state level. In 1992 he became an adjunct law professor at Rut