HHR Serves as inspiration for communities of color
The Law Firm of Hunt, Hamlin & Ridley, the state’s largest black-owned law firm, is proudly celebrating 25 years of legal service to the community. The firm was founded in1995 by three ambitious attorneys, Ronald C. Hunt, Raymond L. Hamlin, and the late Terry Ridley, who first met at a small Newark firm in the late 80’s.
Starting out in three small offices in Newark’s Military Park Building, the firm expanded adding new associates, of-counsel attorneys, and support staff, eventually occupying the building’s entire 16th floor. As a result of their success, HHR opened an office in Paterson, to better serve clientele in NJ’s northern counties.
As friends and colleagues, Ronald, Raymond and Terry, were determined to create a firm that not only provided excellence in the practice of law, but also served as “home” for young attorneys-of-color, who were not being supported at larger, competing law firms.
“Unfortunately, the legal industry is not immune to discriminatory hiring and promotions practices. HHR became an exemplary source of support for young lawyers seeking a fair shot at learning and growing at a firm. Many have moved on to start their own practices, where they also encouraged young attorneys while establishing themselves as leaders in the legal fields,” says Ronald Hunt. Also, the firm’s first ever additional partner, Kenyatta Stewart, is now full time Corporation Counsel for the City of Newark.
This ethos of support has saved the lives and liberty of many clients seeking justice and fairness in the legal system. HHR has developed a reputation for “keeping the innocent out of jail’ in a system that is harder on people of color than their white counterparts.
In the firm’s early days, they were repeatedly denied contracts they bid for, despite having extensive experience in education and housing law. Contracts were awarded to larger firms that usually sent less experienced, junior attorneys, to work for the public entity. Fortunately, the City of Irvington, Paterson, Newark, Hillside among others, saw the firm’s expertise and are now satisfied clients.
After winning several high-profile cases against large entities such as Port Authority of NY/NJ and NJ Transit, HHR has established itself as a civil rights champion. Recently, Raymond Hamlin won a civil rights case against NJ Transit, for a veteran NJ Transit employee, who sued the agency for age and racial discrimination. She was awarded $848,000.00 by an Essex County Superior Court jury who agreed that she was deliberately passed over for a promotion in favor of a white, younger and less qualified candidate.
2020 has been a landmark year for HHR, since Isaac Wright, Jr. joined the firm as an Of Counsel. Curtis Jackson, better known as 50 Cent, was the executive director of “For Life” the ABC-TV drama series based on the remarkable story of Isaac Wright Jr. Thirty years ago, Wright was charged with being a drug kingpin, convicted on false testimony and sentenced to life in prison plus an additional 70 years. Falsely accused, Isaac Wright Jr. learned the law while in jail and got his life sentence overturned.
“Isaac and many other people who have worked, benefitted or supported us, have become a part of the HHR history, and witnessed our fight against racial discrimination and for the rights of our clients, using the law to change a system that should benefit all people. In retrospect, I believe we were successful. I wouldn’t change a thing other than wishing our beloved partner, Terry Ridley were here to see how well we’ve done,” as stated by both Ronald Hunt and Raymond Hamlin.
Terry Ridley was a friend, astute business colleague and devoted founding partner at the Law Firm of Hunt, Hamlin & Ridley. At HHR, Terry received jury verdicts and settlements in a variety of cases, winning close $10,000,000 for his clients. As underwriter’s counsel in the bond issuance process for several municipalities, he was instrumental in obtaining well over $100 million. He had courtroom success representing individuals charged with criminal offenses in both state and federal courts. With a focus on affordable housing, he represented commercial and real estate development projects Terry served as; special counsel to the Hillside planning and zoning boards; redevelopment counsel for the Township of Orange; special counsel to the Newark Housing Authority; redevelopment counsel to the Long Branch Housing Authority; and General Counsel to Jersey City Housing Authority, Irvington Housing authority, and East Orange Housing Authority. Sadly, Terry passed away in 2012.
As HHR commemorates the past 25 years of Hunt, Hamlin & Ridley, and all the awards and achievements they are most honored that HHR has served as an example of hard work, determination and success to their families and friends.