A quintet of trustees is in the running to become secretary of the New Jersey State Bar Association (NJSBA).

 
The position is typically the first rung on the ladder to president of the state’s largest lawyers group.
 
The candidates for the secretary position are: Robert J. Brass a solo practitioner in Newark; Bonnie Blume Goldsamt, a solo practitioner with offices in Verona and Hackensack; Amirali Y. Haidri, a solo practitioner in Springfield; Robert B. Hille, a partner at McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter in Morristown; and John E. Keefe Jr., a founder of Keefe Bartels in Red Bank.
 
The state bar’s Nominating Committee will vet the candidates and issue a report to the association’s nearly 18,000 members on a slate of candidates. If someone decides to contest a candidate, a vote of the association’s members determines the winner.
 
Here is a look at the candidates, in their own words:

Robert J. Brass
Name: Robert J. Brass
 
Hometown: Caldwell
 
Law firm: Law Offices of Robert J. Brass
 
Area of specialty: Litigation, concentrating on criminal defense, in federal, state and municipal courts
 
Why did you become a lawyer?
I come from a family of attorneys. My late father, Sidney A. Brass, practiced in Newark for over 50 years with my late uncle, Leonard Brass. My late cousin was the Hon. Charles A. Joelson, a former appellate court judge, assignment judge of Passaic County and United States congressman. They instilled in me a love for the law, which has grown every day of the over 26 years that I have been practicing law, both in public practice and private practice.
 
Why are you running?
I am running for secretary to further serve this association, whose ideals and members I greatly respect and admire. I am in my third, two-year term as a trustee of the NJSBA; and, have treasured each day of service to the association. In doing so, I serve as NJSBA representative to the New Jersey Supreme Court Committee on Model Criminal Jury Charges, a member of the Judicial Administration Committee, a member of the Continuing Legal Education Advisory Committee, and, as liaison to the Criminal Law Section and the Anti-Trust Section. I am a past chair of the NJSBA Criminal Law Section. I serve as the criminal track CLE coordinator for the NJSBA Annual Meeting (2008-2013). I served as chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on the County Prosecutors Study Commission, and as a member of the Mandatory Continuing Legal Education Committee.
 
What issues are the most critical issues facing the industry and association?
The most pressing issues are related to professionalism in the practice of law, continued legal education of practicing attorneys, and assisting our YLD members as mentors.
 
What is your leadership style?
I believe leaders of the NJSBA must reach out to listen to our members, and work to resolve matters that concern them. As a leader of the NJSBA, I am concerned with all areas of practice and segments of our membership. My style is, through cordial and professional relationships with the Judiciary and my fellow attorneys, to foster communication to help to resolve issues affecting the bar today, and to benefit the public, which we serve.
 

Bonnie Blume Goldsamt
Name: Bonnie Blume Goldsamt
 
Residence: Kinnelon
 
Law firm: Law and Mediation Offices of Bonnie Blume Goldsamt, Hackensack and Verona
 
Areas of practice/specialties: Conflict resolution, mediation of federal and state court cases, including law, chancery and family division matters, arbitration and collaborative law practice; divorce, and chancery practice, including wills and estates, guardianships.
 
Why did you become an attorney? 
I grew up in an era when most married women stayed at home and most lawyers were men. There were lots of lawyers and doctors in my family – all male. Still, from an early age, my interests in history, literature and politics propelled me toward the law. Without sounding trite, I decided to become a lawyer to do good and make a difference in society. I thought I would spend my career in public service, but things don’t always turn out the way you plan. Consequently, most of my law career has been spent in private practice (with a stint in county government). I have consistently combined private practice with service through county and state bar association activities.
 
Why are you running? 
Part of the association’s mission is to be the voice of New Jersey attorneys. I am running to be that voice by representing solo practitioners like myself and small firms that are the bedrock of New Jersey law practice. I plan to focus on benefits and services to lawyers and ways to improve attorneys’ professional and personal lives. For example, one of my initiatives is to obtain affordable health insurance for association members. This will demonstrate that the association is relevant and valuable to New Jersey attorneys. As a result, we will increase our membership and return to our mission: “[T]o serve, protect, foster and promote the personal and professional interests of our members.” I have the skills, 30-plus years of experience, energy, knowledge and fortitude to help effectuate such positive changes in the legal profession and the association.
 
What issues are the most critical issues facing the industry and association?
1. The economy and unemployment and under-employment of new law graduates and attorneys who have lost their jobs, or who are trying to return to the profession after a hiatus
 
2. The independence of the Judiciary
3. The encroachment of multi-jurisdictional practice
 
4. Multi-disciplinary practice
 
5. Ethical issues relating to the Internet and attorney advertising
 
6. Mandatory pro bono service requirements for bar applicants prior to seeking admission to practice law in New Jersey (note: the New Jersey Supreme Court is currently considering a 50-hour pro bono requirement).
 
What is your leadership style?
Consensus-building and inclusive
 

Amirali Y. Haidri
Name: Amirali Y. Haidri
 
Age: 65
 
Hometown: Springfield
 
Law firm: Solo practice
 
Area of practice/specialty: Tort, workers’ compensation and insurance law, registered patent attorney
 
Why did you become a lawyer?
As an engineering undergraduate at the University of Leeds (England), I became chairman of its disciplinary tribunal. I was impressed by the professionalism of our prosecutor, a law student called Jack Straw who has since then held British cabinet positions including foreign secretary. Furthermore, I was inspired to reach the standard set by my late Uncle Ghulamali, a former justice of the British High Court, member of the Tanganyika Parliament and holder of the M.B.E. decoration from King George VI. Between him and my late father, a people’s doctor in the native African neighborhoods of Dar es Salaam, I learned to return the people’s trust in excellence. Moreover, my late mother taught me equality of the sexes.
 
Why are you running?
At present, there is a great need for unity and inclusiveness that I can provide with my multi-variegated background. I am of South Asian origin with roots in multiple faiths. I was born and raised in Africa through a segregated school system. I pursued higher education in Europe and the U.S. I am, therefore, ‘A Man For All Seasons’ who is a unique blend of many cultures, religions and national origins that reflect our membership. I am, therefore, especially poised to bring a sense of belonging to all of our members, and to rally county bar associations behind the NJSBA since I am the only county trustee (Union County) who is a candidate for this post. In like spirit, the time has come for the NJSBA to have an executive officer who is a naturalized citizen of the U.S.
 
What issues are the most critical issues facing the industry and association?
A bank advertisement once informed me, “our branches are our roots.” Precisely. Our sections and committees are our branches, and therefore our roots. A few of them are inactive. Our members are being disserved not to have camaraderie and mandatory continuing legal education (MCLE) programs through them. Only through such joint activities; can we address lack of civility in the profession. Membership in the NJSBA and its programs is great value for the money. The membership needs to be so informed.
 
What is your leadership style?         
I conduct my professional life with the utmost civility, inclusiveness and professionalism. I seek to improve the law with appeals.
 

Robert B. Hille
Name: Robert B. Hille
 
Age: 54
 
Hometown:  Berkeley Heights
 
Law firm:  McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter, LLP
 
Area of specialty:  Civil trial attorney in substantive areas of insurance and healthcare.
 
Why did you become a lawyer?
I enjoy working with people and want to make a difference for them. The law seemed like the best way to do that. I was attracted to the courtroom because juries leveled the playing field. You were limited only by your ability and the strength of your case, not who you knew or where you came from. Finally, as a lawyer I am not hostage to downsizing. I can always do what I was trained to do.
 
Why are you running?
As a board member and chair of the NJSBA’s Amicus and Insurance Benefits committees, I have had the great honor and privilege to serve our members who, in turn, are devoted to serving the citizens of this state by helping them navigate through our legal system. Those roles have given me the opportunity to be their voice and promote their interests. Building on that experience, I would like to continue my efforts to promote our profession in a more challenging leadership role, and carry on the significant legacy established by those before me.
 
What issues are the most critical issues facing the industry and association ?
Two of the most pressing issues I see are the increasing challenges imposed on our members from all directions including our courts and the widening gulf between the bench and bar. These issues are related and the division between lawyers on and before the bench have weakened both groups. This weakness has allowed forces that seek to undermine the independence of the Judiciary to gain momentum. The challenge to the NJSBA is to convince the bench that it has more to gain in close partnership with those before it and that public confidence is enhanced by such a partnership, rather than undermined. It was that way once and can be so again.
 
What is your leadership style?
My focus has always been on the needs of our members. I have tried to be a good listener and strong advocate for their interests in forums where those interests could be advanced. This approach has also involved an openness and willingness to consider conflicting views, in an effort reconcile differences and build consensus. In this process, I have ascribed to the tenets that fairness is essential but so is courage to pursue our members’ interests in the face of opposition.
 

John E. Keefe, Jr.
Name: John E. Keefe, Jr.
 
Age: 47
 
Hometown: Little Silver
 
Law firm: Keefe Bartels, LLC
 
Area of specialty: Civil trial practice in Middlesex, Monmouth and Ocean counties, specializing in negligence and product liability, as well as complex mass tort litigation
 
Why did you become a lawyer?
I have been surrounded by lawyers and the law for as long as I can remember. I find lawyers to be the most interesting and engaging people I know. I am passionate about the practice of law in New Jersey, in our jury trial system, and in the notion that our court system is the great equalizer in our society.
 
Why are you running?
I am concerned that law schools only teach young lawyers how to pass the bar, and it is up to the more experienced members to teach them how to practice. I want to bridge the gap between younger and older lawyers, and establish real mentorship through the NJSBA. I have been disheartened by deterioration in bench-bar relationships; the judicial selection process; and the negative perception recently portrayed, which seems to marginalize the Judiciary as a less than co-equal branch of government.
 
I want lawyers to be proud of what we do, and let the public know how much good our profession does on a regular basis. What other profession does more mandatory and voluntary pro bono work than the lawyers of New Jersey? We have much to do, and much to be proud of. I hope to be part of the NJSBA leadership to focus on these and so many other issues vital to the profession.
 
What issues are the most critical issues facing the industry and association?
Deterioration in bench-bar relationships; the judicial selection process; and the negative perception recently portrayed, which seems to marginalize the Judiciary as a less than co-equal branch of government.
 
What is your leadership style?
Coaching/authoritative/affiliative