As he prepares to be honored this Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend, by the Brooklyn-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ex-Teachers Association of New York, a retired Vincentian judge on recall in New Jersey is issuing sound words of encouragement to all on their career path.
Judge Emille R. Cox — an administrative supervising judge of compensation (retired on recall), Division of Workers’ Compensation, New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development — laid out his advice in an exclusive Caribbean Life interview.
“Don’t be deterred by hurdles you encounter along your career journey,” urged Judge Cox, who received his legal training at Rutgers University School of Law in Camden, NJ. “The old truism ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’ still holds true.”
Judge Cox, who received this bachelor’s degree in economics from Long Island University, downtown Brooklyn, in June 1974, recalled that, when he decided to enter college, he had some misgivings since he did not have the resources for four years of college in the US.
“I still recall the words of the Embassy representative, as she advised, ‘I’ll grant you the visa, but be sure to get to the college’s foreign student assistance office and inquire into any assistance for which you may qualify’ — music to my ears,” he said.
Similarly, Judge Cox said, when he was accepted to law school, he resigned his full-time position with the promise of assistance from his mother.
“Shortly before my first semester, my mother, a long-time cancer survivor, passed away,” he said. “With encouragement from family, particularly my wife, we took a leap of faith and relocated to South Jersey.
“My wife was offered a position on the first job interview in Philadelphia,” he added. “I liken a career journey as a climb uphill: you bear the rigors going up in order to enjoy the ride coming down.”
The judge also urged: “Don’t let others define your goals or your potential.”
After working for just over two years after college, he said he was promoted to associate manager at Prudential Property & Casualty Insurance company.
He said, when he looked at the composition of the staff, he noticed that there was only one person of color at the management level, stating that he saw a law degree as “a short-cut to a promotion to manager.
“When I informed my manager of my decision, he asked rhetorically, ‘you are an associate manager, what else are you looking for?’” Judge Cox said. “That question erased any misgivings I may have had as to whether I was taking too much of a risk by resigning.”
Even during his orientation, following his appointment to the bench, Judge Cox said he “had to listen to a colleague wonder if I was the right person for this assignment. She was wrong.”
Cox was appointed judge of compensation in New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, from April 2003 to June 2010, then as an administrative supervising judge of compensation, from June 2010 to his retirement in 2016.
Prior to these appointments, he served as staff attorney, chief counsel and chief administrative officer in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, from August 1982 to October 2002.
With his penchant to always reach for the stars, Judge Cox said he relies heavily on that maxim.
“The old saying is, ‘if you aim for the moon and miss, you just might land on a star,’” he said, recalling a schoolmate describing Cox’s interest in an advertised Harvard University certificate program as “farfetched.”
“He was right,” Judge Cox said. “I never made it to Harvard, but I think I did alright.”
He said, as a people, “we are too often tempted to attribute our lack of motivation to discrimination,” stating that racial discrimination is “woven into the fabric of our society.
“We encounter it everywhere,” he affirmed. “We can’t wait for that utopian society to evolve where race never matters. It’s not happening any time soon.
“We have to accept it as a given and move on,” he added. “Achievements under difficult circumstances are all the more noteworthy. Stars shine brighter on a dark night.”
Additionally, Judge Cox urges everyone not to feel overwhelmed by any assignment, warning that feeling so “might cause you to refrain from applying for promotional opportunities.”
He said his first job fresh out of college required knowledge of the insurance industry, as well as the capabilities of the then International Business Machines (IBM) mainframe computer, with its punch cards.
Cox also said that, when he was appointed to the Workers’ Compensation Bench, he lacked trial experience in that area of the law.
But, he said, he “survived both.”
Referring to the scriptures, he paraphrased: “Whatever our hands find to do, do it with all our might.”
“That is still good advice,” Judge Cox said.
He said while in law school, he had a part-time assignment with the Superior Court Appellate Division reviewing appellate briefs for compliance with the court rules.
“I still believe that it was my handling of that simple assignment that later led to an unsolicited offer of employment from the then Appellate Division Clerk of Court,” said Judge Cox, who will be honored Sunday at the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ex-Teachers Association of New York’s annual gala luncheon at Grand Prospect Hall in Brooklyn.