Forty-five-year-old Rubin Sinins is already one of New Jersey's leading criminal-defense lawyers, with the background, drive and a trial record that ensure he'll lead the profession for years to come. In fact, it's rare that senior lawyers confer their favorite phrase of affection and respect - "He's a lawyer's lawyer" - on such a young attorney. But a host of peers, all 10 and 20 years older, do so without hesitation. "There aren't many left, and Rubin's one of them," says fellow criminal defense lawyer Michael Robbins. Recently he's taken on major cases, including defending a Rutgers University student in the 2010 privacy-invasion case that drew global attention. Sinins (rhymes with "linens") is the principal practitioner of criminal-defense law at the Javerbaum Wurgaft firm, the 27-lawyer litigation boutique that merged with the Sinins family practice in recent years. Sinins, who still practices in Newark with both his father and his brother, is now part of the Javerbaum firm's new generation of talented trial lawyers.
Sinins - always substantive, with a wry wit and a steadfast advocate of civil rights - has come by all of it honestly: Back in the 40s his grandmother was the lone woman in her St. John's Law School class. His mother Susan Sinins and father Stephen Sinins met in law school; in the 70s and 80s she was a memorable force in the state's newly created public defenders' office (she died in her mid-40s, when Rubin was 19). But her legacy lives on, both in the family and in "all the comments we still get, fondly recalling what a taskmaster she was." Growing up "we had trials at the dinner table," Rubin Sinins recalls. At Newark Academy Rubin captained the basketball and soccer teams his senior year ("I was a pretty good athlete," he says today, "50 pounds ago."), and he went on to Penn, where he majored in American History, with a focus on Civil Rights. In college, he was introduced to A. Leon Higgenbotham, the pioneering African American lawyer and Federal Court judge who at the end of his career taught at Harvard and joined the respected global firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. Higgenbotham offered Sinins a position with him at Harvard ("You never turn something like that down"); there Sinins prepared congressional testimony, edited a volume of civil rights history and drafted law review articles and opinion pieces for major media. Sinins thereafter joined Paul Weiss. But this large firm, with its teams of lawyers, wasn't the place for an eager young litigator to develop his courtroom talents. Hungry to try cases, Sinins returned to Newark, where "criminal defense work gave me a chance right away." Like his mother a generation before him, he took cases for the PD's office, to show and hone his skills. "I'm a big believer in training by doing." By 1998 he had joined his father, a successful civil litigator and tort lawyer; the younger Sinins began building his own reputation as an effective defender of all kinds of accused - those of violent crimes as well as of white-collar crimes such as business and financial fraud. Criminal defense law "became my niche."
To a greater degree than most criminal lawyers, Sinins is remarkably cerebral; peers regard him as the upcoming intellectual of the criminal defense bar. "I love nothing better than dissecting the prosecutor's case," he says, adding, "It's often said there's no better engine for establishing the truth than cross examination. No question about it. A good cross-examiner can wither away the state's case." Sinins's timely youth has aided him: He's become an authority on the effects of new technologies on privacy rights - "Our privacy laws haven't kept up - people still don't know that things like text-messaging and Skype can provide retroactive wiretaps."
It was Sinins and younger brother Scott who spurred the family firm to merge with Javerbaum's respected practice: "I could see we'd do more, for each other, and for our clients, together." Peers say Sinins plays an important and growing role in the tight-knit criminal-defense-law community - he's generous of his time, and his intellect makes him an effective spokesman for the profession. Says fellow attorney Henry Klingeman: "Rubin brings big-firm experience, exactitude and an intense work ethic to bear on criminal defense law."
Away from the office Sinins still plays pick-up basketball and coaches various youth sports teams. He is a longtime resident of Northern New Jersey.