Garden State Bar Association announces gala honorees — and plans to honor Thornton, Brown

Group to present awards named for judge (who passed away earlier this year) and ABA leader at annual scholarship and awards event

The Garden State Bar Association will present the Judge Lisa P. Thornton GSBA Memorial Scholarship — created to honor the extraordinary judicial career and legacy of Thornton, who recently passed away. It also will rename another honor the Paulette Brown Young Lawyer Award at its 48th Anniversary Scholarship & Awards Gala this weekend in Florham Park.

The Thornton scholarship is designed to continue the pipeline of professionals into public service and public interest and to pay homage to the remarkable contributions of Thornton, a highly respected jurist who served as the assignment judge in Monmouth County. Thornton, 59, died earlier this year.

Through this tribute, the Garden State Bar Association aims to further Thornton’s legacy and aims to carry forward the judge’s long tradition of furthering the pipeline through her law clerks, mentoring them into great lawyers. Thornton’s life and career advanced justice and made a lasting impact in the legal community and beyond.

2023 honorees

The following people will be honored at the Garden State Bar Association Gala on Saturday:

  • Julien X. Neals, U.S. district judge, U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey;
  • Anthony Thomas, federal public defender, Office of the Federal Public Defender, District of New Jersey;
  • Karen D. Gwynn, senior assistant prosecutor, Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office;
  • William T. Rogers III, partner, Archer & Greiner P.C.;
  • Sheea Sybblis, associate general counsel & practice group leader, Genentech Inc.;
  • Nilaja S. Ford, founding partner, Law Office of Nilaja S. Ford, Esq.;
  • Dean L. Burrell, principal, Burrell Dispute Resolutions.

The GSBA also announced that the Young Lawyer Division Award will be renamed in Paulette Brown’s honor to pay tribute to her exceptional commitment to the community, public service, dedication and advocacy.

By renaming the award, the Garden State Bar Association aims to honor the living legacy of Brown, who has inspired and mentored countless lawyers with her trailblazing commitment to fostering justice and equity. Brown is the first woman of color and third African American to be president of the American Bar Association.

James Lewis, GSBA president and chief diversity equity and inclusion officer at Cole Schotz, said the new awards are fitting.

“This year’s gala is themed ‘Standing on the Shoulders of Excellence,’” he said. “We will embrace this occasion to celebrate the legal giants among us while paving the way forward for future leaders by awarding a group of talented and successful law students with scholarships made possible by our generous members, supporters, and advocates.”

The 48th annual gala is sold out.

The Garden State Bar Association is New Jersey’s largest and oldest professional organization for African American judges, lawyers, law students and legal professionals. In advancing the mission of its members and the bar, it has reached thousands with its extensive programming, advocacy and initiatives, and aims to continue to raise scholarship funds in support of pipeline initiatives.