The award is named in honor and memory of William Joseph Brennan, Jr., one of New Jersey’s most esteemed jurists, and one of just four U.S. Supreme Court justices named to the Court from the Garden State.
Justice Brennan sat on New Jersey’s Superior Court, Appellate Division and Supreme Court before being nominated by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to the highest court in the land.
Today, Justice Brennan is regarded as perhaps the most influential Supreme Court Justice in the 20th Century.
The first AFBNJ Brennan Award was given in June 1977. Since then, each June, an outstanding jurist, attorney, or other individual whose contributions to the law deserve special recognition has been honored.
After several months of consideration and discussion, the AFBNJ Executive Board selects annual Brennan Award recipients.
Along with the AFBNJ’s Annual Judicial Conference, the Brennan Award Reception and ceremony has become a key opportunity for New Jersey’s Federal bench and bar to come together.
About Justice William J. Brennan, Jr.
William Joseph Brennan, Jr. was born in Newark, N.J. in 1906 and attended Newark public schools. After being graduated from Barringer High School, he attended the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and then Harvard Law School.
After law school, Brennan returned to New Jersey, entering into private practice at the firm of Pitney Hardin (later, Day Pitney), where he practiced labor law. He served in the Army from 1942 until 1945 during World War II, achieving the rank of Colonel.
In 1949, New Jersey Governor Alfred E. Driscoll appointed Brennan to the New Jersey Superior Court, and two years later, to the New Jersey Supreme Court, where he served until President Eisenhower nominated him to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1956.
Between 1956 and 1990, Justice Brennan authored landmark opinions for which he became identified as a staunch supporter of individual rights, particularly relating to free speech, voting, criminal proceedings, abortion and the death penalty.
Justice Brennan also became known for his expansive vision of personal jurisdiction, defining minimum contacts very broadly for purposes of general federal court jurisdiction.
A prolific author of opinions throughout the Warren, Burger and Rehnquist Courts, Justice Brennan was certainly one of the most influential New Jersey attorneys to rise to the federal bench.