Gov. Phil Murphy has nominated Cari Fais, a longtime federal prosecutor, to serve as the director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs.
She will replace Paul Rodríguez, who held the post for three years before joining President Joe Biden’s administration as deputy general counsel to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“Cari has demonstrated exemplary leadership and an unwavering commitment to public service throughout her career,” said Murphy. “Her extensive experience and expertise, including her efforts to investigate and prosecute drug manufacturers responsible for our state’s opioid crisis, make her the ideal fit for this position.”
Fais has served as an assistant U.S. Attorney since 2013 and is currently the Opioid Abuse Prevention and Enforcement Unit chief. She is a former law clerk to Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Michael Chagares and a member of the Hispanic Bar Association.
“The Division of Consumer Affairs plays a critical role in the lives of New Jersey residents – shielding them from financial fraud, protecting their health and safety, and regulating important industries,” said acting Attorney General Matt Platkin. “Cari is an accomplished attorney and dedicated public servant who will be a strong advocate on behalf of New Jersey consumers and an innovative leader in serving all of our residents.”
In the 1970s and 1980s, when consumer issues were widely watched by the public and the media, the New Jersey post attracted some high-profile leaders. Millicent Fenwick (R-Bernardsville) gave up her State Assembly seat to become state Consumer affairs director under Gov. William Cahill, a move that propelled her to four terms as a nationally recognized member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Gov. Brendan Byrne’s pick to run consumer affairs, Adam Levin, used the job to mount a competitive challenge to Rep. Matthew Rinaldo (R-Union) in 1982. After Tom Kean was elected governor in 1981, he named a top ally, Assemblyman James Barry, Jr. (R-Harding) to serve as consumer affairs director.
Kaitlin Caruso and Sean Neafsey held the post on an acting basis following Rodriguez’s departure. Howard Pine, the deputy director, will fill the position until Fais takes officer.
Fais’ current boss, U.S. Attorney Philip Sellinger, praised Murphy’s nomination.
“The people of New Jersey will be well-served by her tremendous work ethic, skill and judgment. Cari has been an important presence in our office, and she will be missed,” Sellinger said. “But we all wish her well as she embarks on this exciting and important new challenge.”
Fais grew up in Hightstown and graduated from summa cum laude from George Washington University. Fais graduated from Columbia Law School, where she was a Notes Editor of the Columbia Law Review. She worked at Trenton-based Womanspace as a counselor to victims of sexual assault and domestic violence and as a victim witness counselor for the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office.
Fais lives in Maplewood and will need sign off from Essex County’s four senators before the State Senate can consider her nomination.