Chair Real Estate & Construction
Anderson Kill & Olick
A strong sense of patriotism, service and
protecting the underserved…
In 1965, as a favor to a childhood friend, James P. Cullen `69
agreed to “keep his friend company” during the Law School
Admissions Test. That favor influenced the course of Mr.
Cullen’s professional life. He attended St. John’s Law as a
St. Thomas More Scholarship. And he had a twenty-seven year career
as a Judge Advocate General’s Corps. After retiring from JAG,
he successfully transitioned to a construction law practice.
He now heads the real estate and construction department of
Anderson Kill & Olick. Most recently, Mr. Cullen was a
critical force in the signing by President Barack Obama of an
executive order to close secret prisons operated by the CIA.
This milestone was initiated by Mr. Cullen and a group of high
ranking retired military officers appalled by the inhumane
treatment prisoners were be subjected to in Iraq, Afghanistan and
Guantanamo. The group began working with Human Rights First
to address the behavior that they deemed to be in violation of
Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. Human
Rights First protects people at risk such as: refugees who flee
persecution, victims of crimes against humanity or other mass human
rights violations, victims of discrimination, those whose rights
are eroded in the name of national security, and human rights
advocates who are targeted for defending the rights of others.
During the 2008 Presidential Campaign the Mr. Cullen and his
colleagues sought meetings with the candidates in an effort to
communicate the group’s belief that following humane interrogation
procedures would enhance – and not jeopardize --National
Security. “Real life is not like the television show “24”
where harsh treatment of a prisoner averts the explosion. An
actual terrorist under a 24-like interrogation would provide false
information to distract and mislead interrogators attempting to
impede their mission. We need to gain good intelligence
before any such occurrence. We feel certain, as officers,
that better intelligence can be gained without torture and we get
to keep our values,” noted Mr. Cullen.
Mr. Cullen attended St. John’s Law while working full-time three
weeknights and weekends as a tractor-trailer operator.
Reflecting upon his time at St. John’s Law, Mr. Cullen recalls
arriving at the Law School in a sixty-five foot long
tractor-trailer one morning after an overnight long-haul-trucking
job and encountering Dean Harold McNeice while climbing down from
the rig on the street outside the law school entry. “Dean
McNeice commented on the number of parking spots taken up by the
rig but was impressed when I emerged from the cab appropriately
dressed in a business suit - common attire for law students of the
era but very uncommon for long haul truckers.” While
attending Law School, Mr. Cullen leveraged an emerging technology
to aid in passing his classes and the bar exam, an early portable
tape recorder. He recorded class notes and played the tapes
while driving his tractor trailer on interstate shipping
Entering the service as an attorney during the Vietnam War, Mr.
Cullen handled numerous construction and procurement projects which
prepared him for his post service practice. Reflecting on his
JAG training, Mr. Cullen notes that Uncle Sam’s legal training was
very progressive. All curriculum and professors underwent a
rigorous peer review and videotape lecture review to assure top
quality training materials. Mr. Cullen recalls “grading” his
JAG professors – a practice unheard of in the time period but which
is now commonplace at St. John’s Law.
Mr. Cullen went to work for “Uncle Sam” when he graduated from St.
John’s Law via the Vietnam War draft. In no way does he
regret his career path. Mr. Cullen offers this advice to
today’s graduates, “If you have any sense of public service,
consider the JAG Corps., or other public sector legal careers that
directly impact a not-for-profit cause that you are passionate
about. Don’t look back years later and wish that you chose a
career path based upon pure passion when you based your decision on
money. It is much harder to follow a dream later in life when
you are encumbered by day to day challenges and obligations.”