Gov. Phil Murphy announced the nomination of Fabiana Pierre-Louis to the New Jersey Supreme Court Friday, putting a black woman within arm’s reach of the state’s highest court for the first time in history.
“Justice cannot be blind if those who sit on our highest and most powerful bench are not surrounded by colleagues who encompass the full range of the American experience, whether it be racially or generationally, or both,” Murphy said. “And, so, today, we are making a powerful statement of where and how these values guide us.”
If confirmed by the Senate, Pierre-Louis would replace Associate Justice Walter Timpone, who reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70 on November 10.
She would then become the first African American to serve on the high court since 2010, when Gov. Chris Christie declined to renominate Associate Justice John Wallace, for whom Pierre-Louis served as a law clerk, for a tenured term.
“Being a supreme court clerk was an invaluable experience, and I gained a phenomenal mentor in Justice Wallace,” Pierre-Louis said. “Never could I have imagined that, one day, I would be nominated to sit in the same exact seat that he once occupied.”
So far, Pierre-Louis, who is currently a partner at Montgomery McCracken and spent nine years as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, has received a glowing reception from Democratic lawmakers.
“She has been described glowingly as both a ‘superstar’ and ‘a unique blend of intellect and humility.’ To a person, everyone with whom I or my team talked to about Fabiana spoke about her humanity, her empathy, and her character,” the governor said. “They spoke about the kind of person she is — the kind of person who always seeks to serve others and always carries with her the pride and perspective of her own past.”
If confirmed, the 39-year-old attorney could hold her seat for up to 31 years before reaching the mandatory retirement age, though she would need to be approved for tenure after her initial seven-year term.
“This is not just a welcome change on the court because of her being a black woman, but also because of her being a member of the next generation of leadership in this state, leaders who do not want to wait to leave their mark, and leaders who we should not wait to see make their mark,” Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver said.
Oliver, the first black woman to hold statewide public office, said there is more work to be done.
“I may be considered one who broke through a glass ceiling…there are still many women left in the basement, sweeping up the glass,” Oliver said. “Today there is more glass on the floor, but there is also one less woman to sweep it up,”