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

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Public Advocate Chen to receive Excellence in Diversity Award

Public Advocate Ronald K. Chen will be the recipient of the Mel Narol Excellence in Diversity Award, which will be presented at the ninth annual luncheon of the New Jersey State Bar Association’s Diversity Committee on Thursday, May 17, during the NJSBA’s Annual Meeting at the Borgata Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City.

“The Diversity Committee is proud to confer the 2007 Mel Narol Excellence in Diversity upon Ronald Chen, the Public Advocate of New Jersey and the first Chinese-American to serve as a member of the Governor’s Cabinet,” said Diversity Committee Co-Chair Lora L. Fong. “Mr. Chen’s professional life embodies both the spirit and the practice of inclusiveness and diversity. He has consistently championed the causes of individual rights and civil liberties throughout his impressive career. As the Public Advocate of New Jersey, he has devoted his considerable talent and skill to giving voice to those who are least able to speak for themselves, and he brings enormous intellect and integrity to the office.”

The diversity award is presented annually to those members of the NJSBA who have spearheaded inclusion and made strides for women and minority lawyers. In 2002, the committee renamed its annual diversity award to commemorate the late President-elect Mel Narol’s commitment to the work of and enthusiastic support of the NJSBA’s diversity initiatives.

“Ron Chen's selection as the Mel Narol Award winner is an acknowledgement of his real-life-Lorax public advocacy to provide a voice to the voiceless,” said Thomas Prol, a member of the Diversity Committee. “His work has sought to dislodge that adjective ‘disenfranchised,’ which all too often prefaces the phrase ‘minority community’ in discussions about public input on the issues of our day.”

Chen is an accomplished lawyer and teacher who, for the last 18 years, has dedicated himself to public service and representing individuals on a range of civil rights and constitutional matters.

Prior to assuming the post of public advocate in March 2006, he was the associate dean for academic affairs at Rutgers University Law School, where he was responsible for overall academic and curricular operations and policy. Previously, he was acting director of the Minority Student Program and director of financial aid, and was an assistant professor of law. Throughout his career he has maintained a busy schedule as a law professor, teaching contracts, federal courts, constitutional law and church-state relations. In addition to his teaching schedule, he has provided pro bono legal representation to clients spanning a wide range of civil rights and constitutional law issues.

In 1990, Chen became an active member of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), serving first as a trustee on the New Jersey board and then as an elected member of the ACLU’s national board. In 2002, he was elected by the board to serve on the National Executive Committee. Once he became public advocate, he resigned his positions with the ACLU.

Chen earned a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College in 1980 and graduated from Rutgers University Law School with high honors in 1983. He served on the New Jersey Supreme Court Committee on Professional Ethics from 1996-2006 (the last year as vice-chair), served on the New Jersey Law Journal Editorial Board from 1996-2006, chaired the New Jersey State Bar Association Committee on Legal Education from 2003-2006, and chaired the Third Circuit Lawyers Advisory Committee from 2002-2003.

Plan to Attend

For more information about the Diversity Luncheon and award presentation, as well as details regarding the NJSBA’s Annual Meeting from May 16-18, visit and select the Annual Meeting button, or click here.

The Diversity Committee and the NJSBA’s Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Transgender Rights Section will cosponsor the program “Lewis v. Harris: How Far the Sky Didn’t Fall” immediately following the luncheon.

The New Jersey State Bar Association, incorporated in 1899, is dedicated to the continuing education of lawyers and the public, to reforming and improving the legal system and to aiding in the administration of justice. Visit the association’s website at