Hany Mawla’s Judicial Temperament

Abused women have a friend in the former Greenbaum partner and recently appointed judge

Published in 2010 New Jersey Rising Stars — April 2010

When it comes to the language of domestic strife, two words tend to be in short supply: respect and cordiality. Hany Mawla insists on them.

Mawla, who was a family lawyer at Greenbaum, Rowe, Smith & Davis until late January, when as this magazine went to press he was appointed to the New Jersey Superior Court bench, has spent his career “seeing good people on their worst day.” In his time at Greenbaum he has handled divorces, custody cases that involve the Division of Youth and Family Services, the “burgeoning palimony industry” and domestic abuse complaints. One key to his success is he is levelheaded and calm. “I try to get great results with a minimum of pain and expense,” he says. “I don’t see how you do that with a scorched-earth policy.”

He brings this approach not only to the bench but also to his pro bono work at WAFA House, which stands for Women Against Family Abuse. It is there that he helps abused women file restraining orders, find shelter and receive job training and financial assistance. New Jersey has a two-step process for filing restraining orders—a temporary one, followed within 10 days by a trial to determine whether a permanent one should be invoked. It’s delicate work. Clients often need help seeing what needs to be done.

“One woman came in convinced it was all her fault, and if she went ahead with the restraining order, her husband’s family and her family would take it out on her,” he says. “I told her, ‘I’m not the police; I’m a lawyer. I can’t help you when it’s midnight and something awful is happening to you.’”

The woman gave permission to file the order.

Mawla was born in Pequannock, N.J., but spent his formative years, ages 8 to 15, in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. His father was an engineer, his mother an obstetrician and gynecologist in Saudia Arabia. (At the time the only female one in the country—she delivered “all the royal babies.”)

He has pleasant memories of his upbringing but says it had little to do with his later decision to advocate for women. “I was too young to understand,” he says. “The fact that women can’t drive in Saudi Arabia was mitigated by the fact that this allowed me to hang out in the back seat with my mother.”

While in law school, Mawla interned for a family law judge, who later hired him as a clerk. He joined Greenbaum in the fall of 2003 and became partner in January 2007.

In 2008, New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine appointed Mawla commissioner and chairman of the newly formed Arab-American Heritage Commission, the first of its kind.

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