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Philip R. Sellinger. (Photo: Greenberg Traurig).

Sellinger confirmed as U.S. Attorney

Menendez pick will take office soon

By David Wildstein, December 07 2021 9:04 pm

On a voice vote, the U.S. Senate today confirmed Philip Sellinger as the new U.S. Attorney for New Jersey.

Sellinger, who was nominated by President Joe Biden at the suggestion of U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, faced no issues in his confirmation last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The 67-year-old Sellinger is the co-managing shareholder of the New Jersey office of Greenberg Traurig, a national law firm.  He served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney from 1981 to 1984.

Sellinger is active in Democratic politics.  He was re-elected in June to serve as a Democratic State Committeeman from Morris County, and has raised money for Menendez, Booker and other Democrats.

He will need to resign his state committeeman post before taking over as a federal prosecutor.  That means Morris County Democrats will need to hold a special election to replace him, possibly at the same time they hold their nominating convention this spring.

The early front-runner for the post, Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez, withdrew her name from consideration in May.

Sellinger’s name jumped to the top of the list after he received the backing of New Jersey’s two United States Senators, Menendez and Cory Booker.

Two Republicans senators on the Judiciary panel, Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee) opposed Sellinger’s nomination.

He was one of seven names on a short list of candidates published by the New Jersey Globe in January.

Another potential candidate, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jamel Semper, is expected to be promoted to a top position in the federal prosecutor’s office, the NJ Globe has learned.    He had received the backing for the top post from key Black ministers and community leaders.

Semper is currently the chief of the Organized Crime and Gangs section in the U.S. Attorney’s office.  He joined the federal prosecutor’s office in 2018 after spending ten years as an assistant prosecutor in Essex and Union counties.  He ran the Special Prosecutions Unit in Essex from 2013 to 2018.

The federal prosecutor post is traditionally filled by the senior United States Senator from the state, if that senator’s party occupies the White House.  That role now falls to Menendez, who made the recommendation in consultation with Booker.

The current acting U.S. Attorney is Rachael Honig.  She assumed the post on January 5 following the resignation of Craig Carpenito.

Carpenito was named to the post by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and approved by the state’s federal judges after the Trump White House was unable to get Menendez and Booker to sign off.

Prior to Carpenito, the post was occupied for nearly eight years by Paul Fishman, a Democrat who had been the choice of the state’s senior U.S. Senator at the time, Frank Lautenberg.

Sellinger is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and New York University Law School.  He served as a law clerk to U.S. District Court Judge Anne E. Thompson from 1979 to 1980.  He serves on the board of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.

“I applaud the U.S. Senate for their unanimous confirmation of Philip Sellinger as U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey. Phil’s years of experience at the highest levels of our legal system, both as a prosecutor and in private practice, will serve the cause of justice well,” said Gov. Phil Murphy in a statement on Wednesday.  “I thank President Biden for his outstanding nomination, I commend Senators Menendez and Booker for their advocacy of Phil’s nomination, and I know that Phil will serve the people of New Jersey with honor and distinction.”

This story was updated at 10:59 AM with comment from Murphy.

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