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Justice Peter G. Verniero (Ret.) to Receive Foundation's Highest Honor

The New Jersey State Bar Foundation's highest award-the prestigious Medal of Honor-will be conferred on the Honorable Peter G. Verniero (ret.), former Associate Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court and currently chair of the Corporate Internal Investigations and Appellate Practice groups at Sills Cummis & Gross P.C. Newark. The award, given each year to those who have made exemplary contributions to improving the justice system and enhancing New Jersey's legal legacy, will be presented at the Foundation's Annual Medal of Honor Awards Dinner Reception on Monday, September 12, at The Palace at Somerset Park in Somerset.

Justice Verniero is appreciative of the Foundation's efforts. "I commend the State Bar Foundation for its outstanding programs," he said, "which help instill confidence in our justice system by enhancing public awareness and knowledge of the law. I am deeply honored by this award, and I am especially honored to be receiving it alongside [co-recipient] Wayne Positan, whom I respect greatly."

Sustained outstanding achievement on the bench and in the bar has been the hallmark of Justice Verniero's distinguished career, whether authoring and signing 124 judicial opinions during his five-year tenure on the Supreme Court or representing New Jersey in landmark cases. Early in his career he served in senior positions within the executive and judicial branches of state government before being appointed by Governor Christine Todd Whitman as her chief counsel. Within a year he had become her chief of staff and a year after that, Attorney General, in which capacity he personally argued cases before the New Jersey Supreme Court and the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Among the cases he argued successfully was a defense of Megan's Law, the state's first sexual offender notification statute.

His carefully written decisions as Associate Justice, touching on a wide array of civil and criminal areas, including employment, corporate and constitutional law, have been cited by numerous courts, including the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, the Court of Appeals for the State of California, the Supreme Court of Minnesota and courts at different levels in Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Hampshire, Alabama and Hawaii. A notable writer, his essays on legal and public policy issues have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The (Newark) Star-Ledger, The New Jersey Law Journal and the Metropolitan Corporate Counsel, among other publications. He annotates and provides commentary to the Rules Governing the Courts of the State of New Jersey, a widely used reference guide for the legal profession. Additionally, as a member of the Society of Attorneys General Emeriti, he offers insights on effective appellate advocacy to state solicitors and appellate chiefs. A prolific speaker as well, he has lectured on effective appellate advocacy at meetings of various county bar associations in New Jersey and regularly speaks at Bar events, where he emphasizes the importance of pro bono service.

"Justice Verniero complements the distinguished past recipients of the Medal of Honor," said Haekyoung Suh, president of the Hunterdon County Bar Association, which nominated the former jurist for the award. "His name is synonymous with integrity, honesty, and above all, professionalism. Public service is woven into his character. We are gratified that this great honor has been bestowed on him."

Apart from his service to public and private clients, Justice Verniero has served the legal profession in many other capacities. Since leaving the bench, he has chaired or served as a member of numerous boards, committees and similar bodies, including the New Jersey Supreme Court's Professional Responsibility Rules Committee, the Supreme Court's Ad Hoc Committee on Continuing Legal Education, the board of trustees of Legal Services of New Jersey, the editorial board of the New Jersey Law Journal, the board of trustees of the Hunterdon Healthcare System, the Governor's Advisory Ethics Panel, the Judicial Advisory Panel and the New Jersey SAFE Task Force. He currently serves as vice chair of the Supreme Court's Civil Practice Committee. He is a member of the American Bar Association, the New Jersey State Bar Association and the Hunterdon County Bar Association and is a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation.

A dozen years since Justice Verniero joined Sills Cummis & Gross, Managing Partner Max Crane continues to be "impressed by his humility, his intellect and legal skills and his integrity. His contributions [to the firm] have been enormous. Even while maintaining an active legal practice, he still finds time to participate in numerous charitable and community organizations. The Foundation chose wisely."

As further testament to his commitment to public service, he has received numerous honors and awards, including the 2014 SAFE in Hunterdon community service award for his efforts to reduce domestic violence in New Jersey; the 2004 Gatekeeper Award in recognition of his "leadership in restoring public confidence in the law" given by Common Good, a national bipartisan legal-reform organization; and the Distinguished Service Award from the Peter W. Rodino, Jr. Law Society at Seton Hall Law School.

"On behalf of the New Jersey State Bar Foundation, I am delighted to recognize Hon. Peter G. Verniero with our highest award," said Foundation President Lynn Fontaine Newsome Esq. "His career in public service is exemplary and of the highest level of professionalism and civility."

A summa cum laude graduate of Drew University, where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Justice Verniero earned his J.D. with honors from Duke University School of Law. He and his wife Lisa, residents of Hunterdon County, are the parents of two daughters.

The Foundation's Annual Medal of Honor Awards Reception begins at 6 p.m. on Monday, September 12, and is open to everyone. For more information, please contact Florence Nathan at the Bar Foundation at 732-937-7518,; or mail a check for $175 per person made payable to the New Jersey State Bar Foundation, to the New Jersey State Bar Foundation Medal of Honor Awards Dinner, One Constitution Square, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-1520, no later than August 31. To place a congratulatory message to Justice Verniero in the program journal, please contact Cynthia Pellegrino at or 732-937-7507.