He is assistant prosecutor and legal adviser in Somerset County, N.J.
By Matt Sinclair ’90
Though it seems like Timothy Van Hise ’70 has an exciting, satisfying job, he takes it all in stride. The economics and business graduate is assistant prosecutor and legal adviser for the Forensic Unit of the Somerset County (N.J.) Prosecutor’s Office, where he’s served since 1982. New Jersey Monthly named him a New Jersey Super Lawyer in the field of criminal prosecution. But Van Hise maintains his modesty.“It was a pleasant surprise,” he says. “But being a public employee, it doesn’t really affect my caseload. The recognition is reassuring, but I’m doing now what I was doing before that issue of the magazine was printed.”
Though he says his cases tend toward the predictable — “murder, robbery, kidnapping, sex assaults” — one case stands out: Charles Cullen. “The ‘killer nurse,’ I think the media dubbed him,” he recalls, “who killed 13 of his patients at the Somerset Medical Center in Somerville, New Jersey, as well as nine more at hospitals where he had worked previously in Essex, Hunterdon, and Warren Counties, as well as others in Easton and Allentown, Pennsylvania.”
Van Hise helped direct the investigation and prosecute Cullen, who pleaded guilty and was sentenced to nearly 500 years in New Jersey State Prison. “It’s true, I guess, that the ‘bigger’ the case, the greater the attention paid to it by the public — read: the press,” he says. “But virtually every case has its attendant pressures.”
Van Hise also is an instructor in the county police academy and the attorney general’s advocacy institute, and occasionally serves as adjunct faculty member at the National District Attorneys Association’s National Advocacy Center at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. For the past few years, he’s been giving back to Lafayette, helping the mock trial team prepare for its competitions, and he helped judge one that it hosted. “From what I’ve seen, I only wish I’d been as proficient when I started doing trial work as what I see from the students,” he says. “They’re very talented.”Like many alumni, Van Hise has noticed that his college years have become more important to him over time. “An observation like that puts me squarely in the ‘old guy’ category, no?” he jokes.
But he also recognizes how his years as a student and a competitor in Division I soccer still affect him.
“I’ve come to appreciate the intellectual curiosity that the faculty worked hard to instill. It’s still as rewarding now as it was years ago to put together a solid investigation and successful prosecution, often of matters about which there’s little knowledge or familiarity at the outset. And the thrill of ‘courtroom combat’ remains — probably a function of both the classroom competition and the athletic contests at Lafayette.”
Van Hise benefited in particular from professors in economics and business, government and law, and English.
“Critical thinking skills and the paramount need for clarity of written work,” he emphasizes, “were a constant theme and have been of immense benefit to me personally.”
Living close to Lafayette offers benefits for the proud alumnus. “I get back to the Hill as often as possible, most often to watch Fran O’Hanlon’s boys play top-notch hoops,” he says.