President Joe Biden is expected to nominate two U.S. District Court Judges for New Jersey on Tuesday, the New Jersey Globe has learned, including a one whose previous appointment was squashed by Mitch McConnell and other who will become the first Muslim federal judge in state history.
Julien X. Neals and Zahid N. Quraishi will be nominated to fill two of the six vacancies on the district court after receiving recommendations from U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker.
The New Jersey Globe first reported Neals’ likely second chance at a federal judgeship nine days before Biden took office.
President Barack Obama originally nominated Neals in February 2015, to replace retiring Judge Faith Hochberg. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Neals in September, but McConnell never allowed the full Senate to vote on his confirmation.
Neals’ nomination sat idle for 677 days before the 114th Congress adjourned. Donald Trump’s election in 2016 ended Neals as a judicial candidate.
Prior to his nomination to serve as a federal judge, Neals held top posts in Newark while Booker was mayor. He was the chief municipal court judge, he city’s corporation counsel, and Newark business administrator.
Neals, 56, is currently serving as the Bergen County Counsel and acting county administrator. He’s been in Bergen for the last five years.
Quraishi served an U.S. Army JAG Corps officer and was deployed to Iraq in 2004 and 2006. He was an Assistant U.S. Attorney and Riker Danzig partner before being named U.S. Magistrate Court Judge in 2019. He grew up in Fanwood and is a Pakistani American; he’ll be the New Jersey’s first Asian American District Court Judge.
Neals and Quaraishi are part of an early wave of Biden judicial nominees and likely moved quickly because both had previously been vetted for federal judiciary posts.
There is also speculation that Superior Court Judge Julio L. Mendez, a former Cumberland County Democratic Chairman and an 18-year veteran of the state courts, is also under consideration for a federal judgeship.
President Donald Trump made no district court nominations in New Jersey during his four-year term, largely because Menendez and Booker would have used “blue slips” – a non-binding process senators sometimes use to torpedo the picks.
As a result, more than one-third of the federal judgeships in New Jersey are currently vacant, giving Menendez and Booker an ability to add six new U.S. District Court Judges this year and bring the total up to a full complement of seventeen.
Neals’ nomination will mean that Bergen County Executive James Tedesco and Bergen County Democratic Chairman Paul Juliano will need to fill his dual roles as county counsel and acting county administrator.