Retired Monmouth County Judges Lawrence M. Lawson and John D'Amico are among 25 winners of the New Jersey Law Journal's 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award. This award, which is conferred on noteworthy attorneys and judges who have helped shape the law in New Jersey, will be presented on June 15 at a Professional Excellence Awards dinner in Florham Park.
After graduating from Bowie State University and obtaining his J.D. from the Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law, Judge Lawson engaged in private practice for several years. He served as the Municipal Prosecutor for the City of Asbury Park from 1981 to 1986, and was Mayor of Neptune Township from 1984 to 1986. In 1987, he became the first African-American judge appointed as a Judge of the Superior Court in Monmouth County. He served in the Civil and Criminal Divisions until 1993, when he was the first African American judge in New Jersey to be elevated to the position of Assignment Judge.
Judge Lawson retired from the bench in 2014 and joined the Tinton Falls law firm of McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney and Carpenter,LLP. where he focuses on mediation and arbitration work and serves on the firm's Diversity and Inclusion committee. Judge Lawson currently serves as a trustee of the Retired Judges Association of New Jersey, a member of the state's Special Committee on Attorney Ethics and Admissions and on Senator Cory Booker's Judicial Appointment Committee. He also serves on several state Supreme Court committees, including the Committee on Minority Concerns, Committee on Evidence, Joint Committee on Criminal Justice and the Standards for Comprehensive Enforcement Committee. He is a member of the United States District Court of New Jersey Panel of Mediators.
Judge Lawson is a member of the American, Garden State, Monmouth, and New Jersey State bar associations. He is a longtime lecturer for New Jersey Institute for Continuing Legal Education and other educational programs.
A graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, Judge John D'Amico began his legal career as a judicial law clerk in Freehold. After practicing law for three years in Red Bank, he became a corporate lawyer and rose through the ranks to become vice president and counsel for a major insurance company. From 1979 to 1989 he also served in elective office as an Oceanport Councilman, Monmouth County Freeholder, and N.J. State Senator representing the 11th District.
In 1992, Judge D'Amico was appointed as a Judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, assigned initially to the Family Division in Monmouth County. While sitting in the Civil Division he developed a new, streamlined trial procedure called an "Expedited Jury Trial." It saves litigants time and money by speeding up jury selection, setting time limits for opening and closing arguments, limiting the number of live witnesses, and substituting documents and expert reports obtained in discovery for live testimony. Expedited Jury Trials have been used extensively statewide and have been emulated in other states.
After retiring from the bench in 2003, Judge D'Amico was appointed Chairman of the New Jersey State Parole Board, where he reformed the Board's policies and procedures and initiated several new programs. He reduced the number of parole revocations for technical violations and expanded residential and day reporting programs to address problems such as substance abuse and mental illness. He established a Community Partnership unit to work with faith-based entities and non-profit agencies to promote successful reintegration of offenders in society. Regional conferences were held and local re-entry task forces formed to address the issues of housing, employment, addiction, gang activity, family reunification, and transportation.
Judge D'Amico retired from the Parole Board in 2007 and became a consultant to the United States Department of Justice, National Institute of Corrections, focusing on parole reform. He was also elected that year to a third term on the Monmouth County Board of Freeholders, serving until 2011. He is currently Chairman of the board of the NY/NJ Baykeeper, a nonprofit environmental organization whose mission is to protect, preserve and restore the Hudson/Raritan Estuary. He is also a trustee of the Friends of the Monmouth County Parks.