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Criminal Practice Attorney of the Year - 2017
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Jessica Oppenheim, Esq.

New Brunswick

Jessica Oppenheim, currently the Director of The Arc of NJ’s Criminal Justice Advocacy Program (CJAP), has been practicing law since 1984.  Her career in criminal law has been an unusually diverse one, including service with both the Attorney General’s Office and the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, complemented by extensive work to develop and lead programs to advocate for vulnerable populations.

Prior to joining The Arc of NJ in 2010, she was an Assistant Prosecutor in the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, in charge of the domestic violence and Megan’s Law Units. Prior to coming to Middlesex County, Jessica was a Deputy Attorney General and Assistant Attorney General with the NJ Division of Criminal Justice from 1987 to 2007. As a Bureau Chief for the DCJ Prosecutors Supervision and Coordination Bureau, the unit which oversaw the 21 County Prosecutors’ Offices and 600 law enforcement agencies on behalf of the Attorney General, Jessica supervised the day-to-day operations of over 60 key staff members. She also drafted and implemented the Attorney General’s Megan’s Law Guidelines, prosecuted Megan’s Law and domestic violence cases and provided training, policies and protocols for law enforcement agencies and prosecutors throughout the State on domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse, internal affairs policies, Megan’s Law and dealing with diverse populations. Jessica has also developed highly specialized training courses for first responders on domestic violence and on responding to incidents involving people with developmental disabilities, and also served as an instructor at the DCJ Academy. She provided legal counsel to the State Office of Victim-Witness Advocacy on funding and programmatic issues and to the State Medical Examiner’s Office. Jessica was the Attorney General representative on a wide range of special Task Forces and executive-level advisory groups such as the Governor’s Council on Domestic Violence and the Task Force on Child Abuse and Neglect.

Since 2010, Jessica has worked with CJAP where she has served as a voice for the disabled and led ground-breaking efforts to provide services for developmentally disabled folks caught in the criminal justice system. As an advocate for this highly vulnerable population, Jessica has led efforts across the state to provide training programs about the special needs of the developmentally disabled. She has also helped spur the creation of community-based services for this population. Her work serves as a unique resource for lawyers as well as community agencies and criminal justice system staff.

Through Jessica’s efforts, grants and funding have been drawn down to support efforts on behalf of the developmentally disabled, particularly to expand training for lawyers and other professionals. In fact, Jessica has been instrumental in developing a first of its kind video, Law Enforcement Video:  Effective Response to People with Developmental Disabilities. She also worked with the NJ Council on Developmental Disabilities to complete a special Needs Assessment Report which pinpointed major gaps in services for the developmentally disabled who become involved with the criminal justice system.

In addition to her work with CJAP, Jessica serves as a volunteer for community agencies, working as vice president of the Board of Trustees for Women Aware, the Middlesex County domestic violence service provider. She also serves as a Board member with the Association for Treatment of Sexual Abusers. In addition, Jessica is a member of the New Jersey State Bar Association, serving on both the Disability and Elder Law Section as well as a special subcommittee which has been reviewing Megan’s Law, and is a member of the Middlesex County Bar Foundation board.

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