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Co-Dean Ronald K. Chen Honored as a Trailblazer

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Co-Dean Ronald Chen of Rutgers Law School was honored with the Trailblazer Award by the Asian Pacific American Law Association of New Jersey (APALA-NJ) at the association’s gala this year.

 According to the organization, the award is “bestowed upon an [Asian-Pacific-American (APA)] attorney who through [his or her] leadership has pioneered into a field or position that has never before been assumed by an APA. Through their service, trailblazers pave the way for future generations of APAs to continue to venture into unchartered territory.”

Co-Dean Chen ’83, has had a long and distinguished career:

  • He became acting dean of the Rutgers Law School on April 11, 2013, and was appointed permanent dean in April 2015.
  • He returned to the law school in January 2010 after serving for four years as the Public Advocate of New Jersey. He advocated for the elderly, persons with disabilities, mental health services’ consumers, and ratepayers, and was generally given standing to represent the public interest in legal proceedings. His areas of focus included eminent domain reform, voters’ rights, affordable housing, childhood lead poisoning prevention, deinstitutionalization of persons with developmental disabilities and mental health services’ consumers, and affordable energy for ratepayers.
  • As Public Advocate, he was named chair of the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Advisory Panel on Immigrant Policy, which was charged with making recommendations on how state government can best assist immigrants to integrate into communities in New Jersey.
  • He also was the associate dean for academic affairs at the law school, with responsibility for overall academic and curricular operations and policy and served as acting director of the minority student program and has taught  Contracts, Federal Courts, Mass Media Law and Church-State Relations.
  • He has appeared numerous times in state and federal court litigating civil rights, civil liberties and constitutional law cases. He currently continues this work through the Constitutional Rights Clinic. Co-Dean Chen is an active lay leader of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), has been a trustee on the New Jersey affiliate board and the ACLU national board, and was chosen to serve on the national Executive Committee. He currently serves on the ACLU-NJ Legal Committee and the ACLU National Board Executive Committee.
  • He earned a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College in 1980 and graduated from Rutgers Law School with high honors in 1983, where he was editor-in-chief of the Rutgers Law Review and the Saul Tischler Scholar. He served as law clerk to the Honorable Leonard I. Garth of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and then practiced with a large New York City firm until 1987 when he returned to the law school as a member of the faculty.
  • He currently serves as chair of the New Jersey Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics, as a member of the New Jersey Law Journal editorial board, and is a member of the NJ Supreme Court Historical Society Advisory Board.
  • He has served on numerous ad hoc committees and working groups for the New Jersey judiciary. He chaired the New Jersey State Bar Association Committee on Legal Education from 2003-2006, and chaired the Third Circuit Lawyers Advisory Committee from 2002-2003. He was named the New Jersey Law Journal’s “Lawyer of the Year” for 2007, in large part because of his work in using state constitutional principles to prevent eminent domain abuse. \
  • He’s received numerous awards, among them are: the Fannie Bear Besser Award for public service given by the Rutgers School of Law–Newark Alumni Association, the 2007 Mel Narol Excellence in Diversity Award given by the New Jersey State Bar Association, the 2002 Roger Baldwin Award from the ACLU-NJ for contributions to civil liberties, and the 2001 Outstanding Achievement Award from the Association of Asian and Pacific American Lawyers Association of New Jersey.

APALA-NJ was founded in 1985 and incorporated in 1993. It is the largest specialty bar association that collectively represents the interests of Asian-Pacific-American lawyers in the state of New Jersey.

As the bar association that represents one of the fastest growing minority populations in the state, APALA-NJ focuses on ensuring greater representation of APA attorneys in various sectors of the legal profession as well as in government and the state's judiciary and embraces the following goals:

  • Promote and support a positive image of Asian Americans.
  • Educate members and the community about issues of critical concern to Asian Americans.
  • Support the entrance and advancement of Asian Americans into and within the legal profession.
  • Provide opportunities for members to network with others in the Asian-American legal community.
  • Encourage members to communicate with New Jersey's Asian-American community.