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Former lawmaker joins local law practice
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Former lawmaker joins local law practice

Staff Writer, New Jersey Jewish News

After 16 years in Congress, Steven R. Rothman has joined the New Jersey and New York law firm of Sills Cummis & Gross. His first day was Jan. 14.

Rothman, the first Jew to serve on the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense, lost a Democratic primary election last year to fellow incumbent Bill Pascrell after the ninth congressional district he represented was redrawn.

One of the leading pro-Israel lawmakers in Congress, Rothman said he hopes to draw on that experience as part of a practice in aerospace/defense, a new area for the law firm.

“I expect that the new interdisciplinary defense industry group that I am chairing at Sills Cummis will be able to assist individuals, start-up companies, as well as established firms interested in making a contribution to United States national defense efforts, including United States-Israel joint military and intelligence efforts,” he told NJJN in a phone conversation.

He added, “I continue to maintain very close personal relationships with members of our government and with members of the Israeli government, and I look forward to continuing to facilitate the strongest U.S.-Israel relationships in a whole host of issues.”

He will also contribute to the firm’s existing government relations and litigation work, based heavily in health care, pharmaceuticals, life sciences, medical devices, real estate/land use, telecommunications, and banking. One of the largest law firms in the metropolitan area, Sills Cummis & Gross has offices in Newark, Princeton, and Manhattan.

Asked if he felt he had unfinished business in Congress, Rothman said, “That chapter of my life, namely as a member of Congress and elected official, is closed. I’ve accepted that reality.”

Moreover, he expressed no anxiety over Israel’s prospects given the current makeup of Congress and the White House.

“There are many, many capable men and women in Congress in the House and the Senate who understand that America’s vital national security interests depend upon the existence and thriving of a strong and secure Jewish State of Israel,” he said. “In addition, and most important, I have full confidence in President Obama and his commitment to the survival of a Jewish state and that he absolutely gets it — he understands that it’s in America’s interest that Israel prevail, first and foremost, in addition to the longstanding historical and cultural ties that bind our two nations.”

However, he acknowledged having reservations about the president’s nomination of former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel as Leon Panetta’s successor as secretary of defense. Hagel has been criticized for referring to a “Jewish lobby” and for not supporting unilateral sanctions against Iran.

“I have concerns about some of the past statements Hagel has made,” said Rothman. “He’s recently clarified his positions on certain aspects of United States foreign policy, particularly with regard to Israel, which I’m pleased about. But I am awaiting the confirmation hearings in the U.S. Senate to hear the answers to what I expect will be some important and pointed questions,” he said.

Rothman declined to be more specific regarding the nature of the questions, “before coming to a final decision in my own mind about Sen. Hagel’s suitability.”

Steven A. Gross, Sills Cummis chair, called Rothman’s decision to join the firm “wonderful.” He said, “That he was on the House Appropriations Committee and was very active on American-Israeli affairs makes us very proud.

“We believe lawyers at our firm should give back to society and play a role in public affairs.” The firm has others with government experience, including Peter Verniero, former NJ attorney general and NJ Supreme Court judge, and Jerold Zaro, former chief of the state’s Office of Economic Growth; Rothman is the first who comes from the national stage.

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