In Memoriam

Stuart Raphael

If there is one compliment Dan Jahnsen is most proud of, it was the compliment from Stuart Raphael: “I can count the lawyers I both like and trust on the fingers of one hand, and you are my middle finger!” Stu was the founder of Raphael and Associates, a prominent third party administrator for the London Market. The company was initially housed in the upper floors of a rundown storefront building on Main Street in Hackensack. Ultimately, his son Justin, secured nicer digs in Rutherford with all the amenities like wall to wall carpet, nicely tiled foyers, electricity, running water, etc. Not that our opinion counts, but Stu was better suited for the old office. An old school “roll up your sleeves” “call it as you see it” professional, Stu wanted results, and he wanted them to be cost efficient. Behind that gruff demeanor was about seven layers of equally gruff demeanor, before you hit a soft spot. A loyal friend, a valued colleague, great father and loving husband.

Sam Bergerman. Now that he’s gone, I can say out loud “I liked Sam Bergerman”. Not just because I cashed checks he signed, which I did, and he constantly reminded that I did, but for the man himself. A giant -figuratively and literally.

As founder of Anglo American, Sam Bergerman ruled with an iron fist all aspects of his cases from the brokers lounge to the courthouse steps. Sam’s universal disdain for attorneys, the court system they served, the law suits they filed, the business suits they wore, the names they chose for their children, was well known to anyone who asked him his opinion …and pretty much equally well known to those who didn’t . That being said, to have Sam’s endorsement as an attorney was a badge of honor. Sam commanded the respect of his industry and those few who disagreed with him, didn’t do so publicly. A razor wit and a piercing intellect were his Hallmarks. He was equally well known for a misperception of being impatient. He was indeed a patient man, just not with you and he let you know exactly where you stood and why. He left us far too early, but far better off for knowing him.

Maura Bala. Not many who read this site would have known Maura Bala. For those who did, she will never be forgotten. Maura was a widowed mother of three, including a special needs daughter, who worked as a secretary for CNA’s staff counsel office. It was from that office we stole most of our secretarial staff. An easy smile, quick wit and a sinister laugh, a joy to be around. A lot of friendships formed here through introductions made by Maura, and as much as we begged her to join us time and again, she remained loyal to her job as working for house counsel gave her the freedom to work two other jobs in order to best provide for her children. She lived a tough life, with grace and dignity, and put everyone else’s interests in front of her own. When we opened our doors, after refusing employment here, she told us she’d pray for us. We have done well, better than we expected, and likely better than we deserved. To those who knew Maura, there is no doubt her prayers were heard.

Steven Pontikes Esq. The good thing about having clients all over the country is that you get the chance to travel the country to see them. Along the way you make friends and develop bonds with some truly remarkable people. To us, Steve Pontikes personified “Chicago”. Possessed of the power and charisma to incite or quell a riot at whim. A commanding intellect with common touch, Steve was at his second best in court and at his very best holding court on Rush Street. A man’s man who was also a lady’s man, incapable of being housebroken or trained. A fierce advocate and loyal friend who was never on time, except for his own funeral- and for that he was far too early. Birth and death are equally ugly, and neither should define the life in between

Hon. George Nicola. The fastest judge in the East. I once picked a jury, opened, cross examined an expert and a party, and won a trial in less than 50 minutes before Judge Nicola. If he liked your style, he’d leave you alone, if he didn’t, he’d make sure you knew it. He suffered no fools and could grasp and cut to the chase of the matters tried before him. While a stickler for the rule and intolerant of any delay, this imposing figure on the bench was warm and engaging in chambers. As a judge, Nicola prided himself in trying more cases per year than any member of the bench. He was quick to share his insights and constructive in his criticism and was a cultivating force to those fortunate enough to try matters before him.

Hal Graham. Hal was just another example of a keen judge of character, in other words: he hated Dan immediately. Fair enough, Dan’s kind of like Brussel sprouts- an acquired taste. Adversity though has a way of bringing even opposites together and over time Hal became a true friend . A “universal man” who fit in wherever he went, Hal was never one to meet acquaintances, he made friends and an introduction from Hal opened doors across the country and overseas. He was also not adverse to the notion of a summer happy hour on the water and could spin tales that that kept you in stitches and would otherwise border on being incredible but for the fact that it was coming from Hal.

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