NJ State Bar President Discusses Environment and LGBTQ Issues
Thomas Prol, Esq., president of the NJ State Bar Association, describes the role of the NJSBA, how he became president and his passions as a lawyer including environmental and LGBT issues.
"We are pleased to welcome Thomas H. Prol, president, the New Jersey State Bar Association. Good to see you. Good to see you. Mister president, let people know what the Bar Association is, and why you're so important. Well, we're the member organization for New Jersey attorneys, we have about 18,200 members at this point, always looking to build that, but we stand up for access to justice issues, fairness in the judiciary. And we're also the zealous advocates for judicial independence, particularly when the judiciary's under attack, we stand up and we speak out for them as well. Is the judiciary under attack? Well... [laughter] A loaded question, I know. Yeah. Turn the TV on every single day, and you know. Yeah. That's one of the unique features of the judiciary is they have ethical canons that they have to abide by. And so sometimes they can't come to their own defense. That's our role. And so we stand up for that third branch, that coequal branch of government, to make sure they're protected and they can decide cases and administer justice freely and fairly. And the connection between the Bar Association and the Supreme Court is? Well, we often appear as what they call amicus curiae, "friend of the court". We go in and we provide the guidance and wisdom of our members, and our members are very diverse, from all types of practice areas. And so where an issue comes up before the court, where it impacts access to justice or our mission statement, we'll go in and provide information and guidance to the court, so they, and they ultimately make the decision, but we like to have them all the information, we provide that to them when we can, so... Why a lawyer? Why a lawyer? You? Yeah. Oh, well... What is it? A trick question? Yeah no. Come on, you get asked that all the time! Seriously. I do. Why a lawyer? You know, I'll tell you. Back in the 90's, I was in the Peace Corps, I was in Nepal, I was on a mountain. So you admit this? Yeah, right, yeah. [laughter] So I, my, and I had my masters in public health environmental and occupational health. Right. I had a trajectory of going into health and education, these sorts of things. And you may remember in the 90's, there was this very caustic political environment with regards to LGBT people. And I'm openly gay. I'm the first openly gay president of the state bar in 188 years. Right. And I will say I became upset, and when I get upset I advocate. I go after things, and so my goal was the goal of equality. And so what happened in the 90's between Don't Ask Don't Tell, and throwing people out of everything just because they're gay..."