Michael Critchley, one of New Jersey’s top defense lawyers, was honored by The North Ward Center at its annual Irish Breakfast in Spring Lake.
In honor of Critchley, The North Ward Center donated $10,000 to one of Critchley’s favorite charities, Sisters of Christian Charity at Assumption College in Mendham. Guests at the event, held at the Breakers on the Ocean, were also asked to make a voluntary contribution to the organization.
The North Ward Center also donated $5,000 to Christ the King Preparatory School in Newark, a Catholic high school that is part of the Cristo Rey Network designed to address the needs of academically capable, inner city students.
“Michael is not only a great lawyer, a great Irishman, but he’s also a great humanitarian,” said Stephen N. Adubato, the founder of The North Ward Center, a community development organization in Newark.
The Sept. 16 event attracted more than 100 of New Jersey’s political and community leaders, including U.S. Rep. Albio Sires, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, Senate President Steve Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Shelia Oliver, Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean and Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono.
Also in attendance were Assemblyman John Wisniewski, the chair of the state Democratic party; Sen. Kevin O’Toole, the chair of the Essex County Republican party, George Gilmore, the head of the Ocean County GOP; Essex County Executive Joseph DiVencenzo and Assemblyman Tom Giblin, who sang “Irish Soldier Boy” for the crowd.
Guadagno remembered facing Critchley when she was a young prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark. “Whenever Michael gave an opening or a closing, or cross examined a witness, the courtroom would be packed with young lawyers just to watch a great lawyer in action,” Guadagno said.
Critchley, who was born and raised in Newark’s old First Ward in the late 1950s and early 60s., attended St. Augustine School, where the Sisters of Christian Charity taught. Criticley said the nuns were like mothers to him.
“They provided guidance, instruction, discipline, care, love -- all those things that a mother provided,” he said. “They took good care of the boys and girls that came under their care.”
Critichley described the blue-collar neighborhood as rough and said the sisters provided guidance to keep kids out of trouble. He said the school building had four rooms with different grades sharing a classroom. The bathroom was outside the building, which was surrounded by factories.
Though it’s no longer a school, the building still stands and today it is used by nuns affiliated with Mother Theresa.
“The sisters were devoted to the school,” Critchley said. “In my eight years at St. Augustine, he remembers on one day when a nun called out sick.
Throughout the years, Michael has remained close to the nuns. He is on the board of trustees of the Sisters of Christian Charity at Assumption College in Mendham. Assumption educates nuns from Africa and South East Asia, giving them a free education.
Originating in Germany, the sisters first came to Newark in 1870. The sisters still teach at schools in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey, including St. Nicholas in Jersey City and Our Lady of Sorrows in South Orange.
Adrianne Davis, the executive director of The North Ward Center, said Critchley has long been a friend of The North Ward Center.
“We are lucky to be able to call Michael a friend,” Davis said. “He is a pillar of the community and we are proud to honor him at our Irish Breakfast.”