The history of Berry, Sahradnik, Kotzas & Benson is inextricably tied to the history of Ocean County itself, the county being founded by Joel Haywood, the great, great grandfather of the firm’s current member Franklin Berry, Jr.
But it was Franklin Berry, Sr. who actually founded what is today one of the area’s longest actively practicing law firms. Born in Manahawkin, and a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Mr. Berry went out on his own in 1941, establishing the firm of Berry & Whitson. He then joined the U.S. war effort in France, later staying behind to provide legal assistance at the Nuremburg War Trials. When he returned to New Jersey, Berry’s uncle, the former Court of Chancery Judge, Maja Leon Berry joined the firm. The firm became Berry, Whitson & Berry.
By 1961, the practice grew into Berry, Summerill, Rink & Berry, with Jane Rink becoming one of the first women to serve as a partner in a prominent area firm.
1961 was also the year that young Franklin H. Berry, Jr. joined the practice. He soon distinguished himself, when in 1962, a major storm rocked Long Beach Island, destroying over 350 homes. Controversy ensued when landowners along the Beach Haven shoreline sought to rebuild beyond what was deemed to be reasonably safe. The elder Berry drafted the ordinance establishing a line beyond which no homes could be built, but it was the younger Berry who defended the constitutionality of that ordinance, all the way to the New Jersey Supreme Court.
With the senior Berry’s passing in 1975, the 1980s and 1990s saw the firm name change several times. Yet, its ability to handle and win high profile cases did not. When the State of New Jersey sought to dump radon-contaminated waste in the Colliers Mill Wildlife, Franklin Berry Jr. helped mobilize the community against this action. Ultimately, Berry and Jack Sahradnik were successful in securing a court order mandating that Ocean County would never be the material’s final destination.
The firm’s commitment to the community was further exemplified in the Pelican Island case in which it fought successfully to ensure that congressional districts be contiguous, thereby pre-empting politically inspired reapportionment.
Today, Berry, Sahradnik, Kotzas & Benson serves clients in a diversified group of practice areas, many of whom were first represented by Franklin Berry and his father. Although Franklin Berry Jr. semi-retired in 2000, under the leadership of Jack Sahradnik, Stephen Kotzas and Laura Benson, the firm’s emphasis on not just advocating on behalf of businesses and people, but also for the very communities in which they live, remains a cornerstone of the firm.