New Jersey immigration lawyer Sohail Mohammed, featured in the 2006 edition of New Jersey Super Lawyers, was nominated last January to a Superior Court judgeship by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. If confirmed by the State Senate, he would become the second Muslim judge of the Superior Court in New Jersey. He would serve on the court in Passaic County.
The nomination drew criticism from anti-Muslim bloggers but Gov. Christie remains staunchly supportive of his nominee. In a recent town hall meeting in Hammonton, N.J., the governor remarked, “I’ve known this man for 10 years. He’s a good, decent American and New Jerseyan, he’s an outstanding lawyer, and he deserves the opportunity to be on the bench. I am proud to have nominated him.”
Mohammed’s path to the law was set in motion after he was selected to jury duty during his senior year of college and became fascinated by the judicial process. He obtained permission from then-Judge Robert Passero, who presided over the case he worked on, to return to the court as an observer. That hooked him, and he enrolled in Seton Hall Law School. He said to us in 2006:
I told [Judge Passero] my goal was to be a trial attorney. In law school, we used to watch Law & Order, and I wanted to be a hotshot litigator. And he said to me, “In this profession, you can make a lot of money if you want to, if that’s all you want to do. But if you want to serve others, you will find that there is also an opportunity.”
An immigrant who left India with his family when he was 15 and settled in Clifton, N.J., Mohammed eschewed the hot-shot litigator route for something closer to his heart:
Immigration law is not something I thought about in law school. But when 9/11 occurred, I said to myself, “This is why I was pulled into immigration law.” If things are happening to immigrants, it’s going to affect Americans. If immigrants are deported, they will leave. But if you don’t stop the scrutiny, the constitutional damage that’s being done, who’s going to be left to face the consequences? Americans.
In the wake of 9/11, Mohammed represented 29 Muslim detainees. He also worked with law enforcement to increase cultural awareness between American FBI officers and Muslims who were questioned after the attacks.
Mohammed tells us he is deeply honored by Gov. Christie’s nomination but declined to comment further.