By Robert Florida
Dolores Bujnowski is an assistant prosecutor in the Special Victims Unit, which means her cases involve the physical and sexual abuse of children. It’s a tough job, but she loves it, and her commitment is born of personal experience.
When she was a child, Bujnowski was bullied. So as she grew older, she wanted a job that would let her be “a voice and an advocate for those like children – who cannot speak for themselves,” she says.
She graduated from Bayonne High School and then studied politics and criminal justice at Seton Hall, graduating magna cum laude. She next enrolled in Seton Hall Law School, where during her second and third year she interned at the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office. She was assigned to two demanding units: Special Victims and Homicide. The Special Victims Unit handles the sexual abuse of children, adult sexual abuse, elder abuse, and bias offenses. The unit doggedly defends all these victims, and Bujnowski found her calling. Here, she talks about her work, her internship, and her commitment to defending society’s most vulnerable members.
You were an intern for two intense units – Special Victims and Homicide. Can you talk about the work you did for both?
I interned at the Essex County Prosecutors Office from January 2016 to January 2017. I was assigned to the Special Victims Unit and to the Homicide Unit. For the Special Victims Unit, I had a chance to work on a variety of different assignments, including observing forensic video interviews of children, writing statement summaries and legal memos and briefs for assistant prosecutors, and researching case law and statutes.
I was placed in the Homicide Unit from June 2016 to January 2017. The work was intense and fast-paced – and I loved every second of it. As a rising third year student at Seton Hall Law, I was allowed to work on a variety of different legal memos and briefs – including petitions for post-conviction relief, Miranda motions, and suppression motions. I even had the opportunity to successfully argue a petition for post-conviction relief before the Honorable Michael L. Ravin, under the supervision of Deputy Chief Assistant Prosecutor Justin Edwab!
Did the internship deepen your interest in prosecution?
Absolutely. While interning here, I had the opportunity to observe a variety of different court proceedings, including trials and motions. I was also able to watch forensic interviews of children and statements of victims, witnesses, and suspects. The whole experience really solidified my desire to pursue a career in prosecution.
Ever since I was in college, I knew I wanted to be a prosecutor. I’d always been drawn to criminal law, through both my political science and criminal justice classes at Seton Hall University. And because of my past life experiences – I was bullied a lot in both elementary school and high school – I wanted to pursue a career in law that would allow me to be a voice and an advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves. My work in the Special Victims Unit these past four years has allowed me to pursue that passion every single day.
Being an advocate for all of our victims, but especially our child victims, is incredibly rewarding. A lot of our child victims are at an age where they are particularly vulnerable and unfortunately have experienced terrible events and traumas that should not happen to anyone, let alone a child. Knowing that I am giving those children a voice and that I am fighting for them each and every day in Court – something that they necessarily cannot do themselves – is a responsibility I do not take lightly and feel blessed to be able to do.
How did you end up working as assistant prosecutor here in Essex?
I’d had an amazing experience during my internship with the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office. So after I completed my judicial clerkship, applying to the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office was a no brainer. I knew that becoming an assistant prosecutor at the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office would allow me to not only continue but to build upon the experiences and opportunities I was given during my internship.
Moreover, I knew that becoming an assistant prosecutor at the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office would allow me to handle and be exposed to cases that one could not experience in any other county or in any other office. Our cases are unique and awesome and have really allowed me to gain invaluable work experience.
Do your parents work as lawyers?
No. I am the first lawyer in my family. My mom is a music teacher, and my dad (before he retired) was a technician for Robert Wood Johnson (RWJ) Barnabas Health.
What do you like to do after work?
Some of my hobbies outside of work include reading, baking, and religiously watching the New York Mets. I’m also a Certified Fitness Instructor at the MAX Challenge of Bayonne and teach a few classes there during the week!
What is your current job and responsibilities?
As an assistant prosecutor in the Special Victims Unit, I handle cases from investigation through disposition that span a wide range of criminal offenses involving the physical and sexual abuse of children. The Special Victims Unit is housed in the Wynona’s House Child Advocacy Center, where we work with therapists, child-abuse pediatricians, and social workers from the Division of Child Protection & Permanency – collaborations that allow us to focus on our victims, their wellbeing, and their families.
Although the subject matter of our unit’s cases can be challenging, I really enjoy my assignment with the Special Victims Unit. My work here exemplifies why I wanted to become an assistant prosecutor in the first place: to be a voice for those who can’t speak for themselves. Overall, it’s been an incredible experience.
Would you recommend the summer internship to students and encourage them to pursue careers in prosecution?
Absolutely. Interning at the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office was one of the highlights of my time in law school. I would recommend anyone interested in pursuing a career in prosecution to seek an internship with our office. Being an assistant prosecutor is such a rewarding experience and I would wholeheartedly recommend this career to anyone interested in criminal law