OSCAR W. RITTENHOUSE (1930 - 1979)
Oscar W. Rittenhouse, known to his friends and colleagues as Bill, was a remarkable man; a prosecutor with a deep commitment to fair play and justice for all; a dedicated and sensitive community leader; and a warm and caring human being.
Bill Rittenhouse was born June 4, 1930 in Somerville, New Jersey. His family lineage was among the oldest in Hunterdon County, tracing back to pre-revolutionary days. He began his education in the local school system in Clinton, New Jersey and after graduation from Clinton High School received his B.S. at Cornell University and L.L.B. at Harvard Law School. His education was interrupted by service as a First Lieutenant in the United States Army in Korea from 1953 until 1955 when he was discharged with the rank of Captain.
He entered the private practice of law in Hunterdon County in 1959 and continued therein until 1975. During that period he served as an attorney for numerous municipalities and municipal boards. In 1966, he was selected as Hunterdon County delegate to the New Jersey Constitutional Convention. Bill's other contributions to his community included membership on the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees of the Hunterdon Medical Center and the Board of Trustees of the Grandin Library and service as an Elder in the Clinton Presbyterian Church.
He was initially appointed as Prosecutor of Hunterdon County in 1968 by Governor Richard Hughes. At that time, the position was part time. He served in that capacity until 1973 when he once again returned to devote full time to his private practice.
In 1975, he was selected by Governor Brendan Byrne to become Hunterdon County's first full time Prosecutor and served in that position with distinction. He was chosen by his peers as President of the County Prosecutors Association of New Jersey to serve from 1978-1979. In 1979, he was requested by the National District Attorneys Association to head a presentation on juvenile delinquency prevention at its mid-winter meeting in Biloxi, Mississippi. It was following that presentation en route home, that he met an untimely death in a tragic airplane accident.
His life, cut short at age 48, was an inspiration for those who knew him. To share some of that experience with others, his friends and colleagues have established this scholarship foundation in his memory.
To be eligible for the Oscar W. Rittenhouse Memorial Scholarship, an applicant must be a New Jersey resident accepted for admission to a law school. The applicant must have an interest in pursuing a career as a prosecutor. The applicant must also demonstrate financial need.
ANDREW K. RUOTOLO, JR. (1952 - 1995)
Andrew K. Ruotolo, Jr. , known to his friends and colleagues as Drew, was a "great person", a "fine prosecutor" and a "wondersul friend."
Drew Ruotolo was born on November 5, 1952. He attended Westfield High School where he earned All-American honors as a swimmer. He then attended Amherst College, where he graduated with honors in 1974. In 1978, he received his law degree from Fordham University Law School.
He joined the U.S. Attorney's Office in !981, working in the criminal division and handling a number of high profile cases. Thereafter, he worked in private practice in Mountainside, specializing in criminal and civil litigation. He was a certified Criminal Trial Attorney and a Master with the Richard J. Hughes American Inn of Court Program.
In 1991, at age 38, he took the oath of office as Prosecutor of Union County. In four short years, Prosecutor Ruotolo implemented a number of initiatives. He established an Anti-Bias Unit to effectively combat hate crimes and personally handled the first jury trial of a bias crime indictment ever prosecuted in in New Jersey. He developed the first full-time Domestic Violence Unit in the County and directed a countywide protocol for rape victims.
Prosecutor Ruotolo is widely credited for his efforts to help creat the Essex-Union Auto Theft Task Force. After only two years, the task force of 23 police officers and detectives from both counties joined state troopers in making hundreds of arrests for stolen vehicles with a net reduction of 20% in car thefts. Juvenile law issues were a major concern of his. He served for nearly 10 years helping troubled youth on the Juvenile Conference Committee. As Prosecutor, he expanded the size of the Juvenile Unit, worked on several initiatives to combat violence among youth and created the first ever Prosecutor-sponsored Youth Academy for first time offenders.
All of his accomplishments, he will perhaps be best know for the creation of the Union County Child Advocacy Center, dedicated on July 11, 1995. The Center provides a "safe haven" inside a refurbished home in Elizabeth where scarred child abuse victims come to begin the healing process while providing evidence to prosecute their abusers.
Prosecutor Ruotolo died at age 42 at the end of a brave and courageous six-month battle with cancer. While his list of awards and recognitions could fill several pages, the underlying theme in all his accomplishments was a deep love for people and a commitment to improve the human condition of those who were victimized by circumstances beyond their control.
To be eligible for the Andrew K. Ruotolo, Jr., Memorial Scholarship, an applicant must be a New Jersey resident accepted for admission to a law school or graduate school. The applicant must exhibit an interest in, and commitment to, enhancing the rights and well-being of children through child advocacy programs. The applicant must also exhibit financial need.
HARRIS Y. COTTON (1929 - 1997)
Harris Cotton was a caring, compassionate and giving person with a tremendous spirit and a great sense of humor. He was considered to be the Dean of Prosecutors in the State of New Jersey.
Harris Cotton was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Villanova and received a degree in Biology. He had once considered being a doctor but told a reporter in 1980 that he "couldn't get into medical school and tending bar just didn't seem like a good future.
He joined the Army during the Korean War. He became a lab technician performing autopsies in Japan and Korea. Upon returning form his military stint, he lived in Ardmore, Pennsylvania and commuted to Woodbury, New Jersey, for a bar tending job. He subsequently enrolled in Rutgers University Law School and was admitted to the bar in 1958.
Harris Cotton had a strong legacy of respect for personal rights. His father, Charles Camp Cotton, a staunch Civil Rights supporter and counsel to the NAACP, had served as Gloucester County's Prosecutor from 1940 to 1945. Following in his father's footsteps, Harris Cotton served two five year terms as the Gloucester County Prosecutor. The first term was from 1975 to 1980 when it was still a part-time position. His second term commenced in 1991 and ended in 1997. He died at the age of 68, 40 minutes before his second term officially ended.
Harris Cotton was a strong advocate for protecting individual rights. Under his watch, specialized Units in the Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office , such as the Domestic Violence Unit and the Hate Crimes Unit, received the type of support needed to aggressively combat criminal acts that serve to undermine basic personal rights. As a tribute to Harris Cotton, a vanguard of individual rights, this scholarship was established by his friends and colleagues in his memory.
To be eligible for the Harris Y. Cotton Memorial Scholarship, an applicant must be a New Jersey resident accepted for admission to a law school. The applicant must have an interest in pursuing a career as a prosecutor with an emphasis in Domestic Violence or Hate Crime prosecutions. The applicant must also demonstrate financial need.
JOHN H. STAMLER (1938 - 1990)
Those of us who were fortunate enough to know John H. Stamler during his time with us know of a man whose life was marked with integrity and compassion, a man with a delightful wit and an acute sense of fairness coupled with a strong desire to be of service.
John was the first Prosecutor in New Jersey ever to be appointed to three consecutive terms. He was first appointed by Governor Brendan Byrne on May 12, 1977, reappointed to a second term by Governor Thomas Kean of Novermber 3, 1982 and then reappointed again to the unprecedented third term by Governor Kean on May 16, 1988.
He was twice chosen to be president of the County Prosecutors Association, serving from 1983 to 1984 and form 1989 to 1990.
John graduated from Lafayette College and Vanderbilt University Law School and was admitted to the New Jersey bar in 1965. He was sworn in as an Assistant Union County Prosecutor on December 14, 1967 and was supervisor of the first countywide narcotics strike force , combining county investigators and municipal police officers in a joint assault against drug dealers.
He was known throughout New Jersey as a man who loved law enforcement with an unbridled passion, a man so driven by a desire to be of use to his fellow man that he would not allow the physical pain and problems associated with his heart transplant and fatal illness to stand in the way of performing his duties.
His list of awards, accomplishments and honors fills several pages, but suffice it to say he was indeed recognized for his innovations in such areas as domestic violence, child abuse, victim/witness assistance, crime prevention and most of all, the battle against the scourge of drugs.
Beyond all of that, he took the time to remember birthdays, children and the special events in the lives of friends, staff members and those closest to him.
The Union County Police Academy Building, as well as this special annual scholarship award, are forever named in honor and memory of "Mister Prosecutor" John H. Stamler.
To be eligible for the John H. Stamler Memorial Scholarship, an applicant must be a New Jersey resident and a sworn law enforcement officer seeking educational advancement on a college or graduate level to improve his or her effectiveness as a law enforcement officer. The applicant must also demonstrate financial need.
Questions regarding the scholarships please email:
The County Prosecutors Association of New Jersey announces the availability of the 2015 Oscar W. Rittenshouse, Andrew K. Ruotolo, Jr., Harris Y.Cotton and the John H. Stamler Memorial Scholarships. The County Prosecutors Association of the State of New Jersey, a nonprofit corporation annually awards scholarships to law students, college and graduate students. Each scholarship is a one-year grant in the amount of $3,500 paid directly to the recipient. Scholarship recipients from previous years are ineligible.