The ACDL-NJ's Founding

"One night in the fall of 1984, [attorney Carl] Poplar received a call from his good friend and fellow defense lawyer Eddie Jacobs, who told Poplar to drop what he was doing and drive down to Atlantic City, where the U.S. attorney’s office was investigating organized crime in the city.  'You don’t ask questions,' says Poplar of the trust among his community of trial lawyers. 'You simply cancel your plans and go.' 

Jacobs told Poplar that the U.S. attorney’s office wanted Mayor Michael Matthews to cooperate in its investigation and become a covert operative by scheduling meetings with crime suspects and wearing a wire. But the mayor, concerned for his safety, balked. Poplar and Jacobs advised him that he didn’t have to cooperate if he didn’t want to. The mayor’s decision greatly upset the federal investigators, and the following day both Poplar and Jacobs were targeted for obstruction of justice charges and served with a subpoena to appear before a federal grand jury early the following week. 

'In the meantime, I went out to lunch a few days later with a half-dozen defense lawyers from New Jersey, including Eddie,' recalls Poplar. 'We went to a small Jewish delicatessen in a blighted section of Camden, and Joe [Hayden Jr.] finally says, "This is terrible what they’re doing! Targeting lawyers? This just isn’t right."' 

So this small group of New Jersey trial lawyers went on to form the ACDL-NJ, a selective and tightly knit organization, to give security, education and a 'sense of mission' to lawyers who specialize in criminal defense in the Garden State.... 

'It’s a limited number of people who do criminal defense work, and it’s a true brotherhood and sisterhood,' says Poplar. 'We’re different than people who do big firm work. It’s a whole different concept, a whole different world.  You really can’t explain it, because it sounds too trite, but you’re really fighting against tyranny. A democracy is always on the edge of a tyrannical government, and you’ve got to keep that intact because there’s so much freedom — and freedom begets power, power begets abuses.'"

- from "Tenacious Defender," by Nick DiUlio, New Jersey Super Lawyers 2011 (April 2011)

In this 2023 podcast, ACDL-NJ Past President Matt Adams and Joseph Hayden, the ACDL-NJ's founder and first president, discuss the origins of the ACDL-NJ, and the criminal justice emergency in the 1980s that spurred and shaped its formation: