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Justice James H. Coleman Jr. Receives Inaugural Mel Narol Excellence In Diversity Award

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ— The New Jersey State Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Diversity, formerly known as the Task Force on Diversity, presented its first Mel Narol Excellence in Diversity Award to retired New Jersey Supreme Court Justice James H. Coleman Jr. at the recent NJSBA Annual Meeting in Atlantic City. Narol was also named posthumously to receive the award.

The standing committee renamed its annual diversity award the Mel Narol Excellence in Diversity Award in July 2002 in order to commemorate the late President-Elect Mel Narol’s commitment to the work of and enthusiastic support of the New Jersey State Bar Association’s diversity initiatives. The award is presented to those members of the NJSBA who have spearheaded inclusion and made strides for women and minority lawyers.

Justice Coleman is the first African-American man to serve on New Jersey’s Supreme Court. He began his judicial career in May 1973, when he was appointed a judge of the Union County Court. He served in that capacity until December 1978, when he became a Superior Court judge. In March 1981, Chief Justice Wilentz elevated him to the Appellate Division. He was named a presiding judge of the Appellate Division in May 1987.

Coleman has made key rulings on criminal law, landlord-tenant issues, liability, domestic violence, workers compensation, legal procedure and legal fees.

Dale Console accepted the award on behalf of her husband, Mel Narol, who was president-elect of the NJSBA at the time of his death on June 3, 2002.

Mel was a charter member of the task force and instrumental in making the diversity effort within the NJSBA a permanent order of business. On April 12, 2002, the board of trustees approved standing committee status for the task force effective June 1, 2003. The new entity is called the Standing Committee on Diversity.

“Mel felt strongly that the NJSBA should be at the forefront of inclusion, strategically, for the sake of the development of membership, and because it was simply the right and most natural thing to do for today and the future,” said Desha Lang Jackson, immediate past chair of the Task Force on Diversity.

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.