Superior Court Judge Julio L. Mendez is among the candidates being considered for a federal judgeship, the New Jersey Globe has learned.
Mendez, a former Cumberland County Democratic Chairman, has won the recommendation of key South Jersey political leaders who had urged U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker to consider him, according to multiple sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
New Jersey has six vacancies on the U.S. District Court and the two Democratic senators are expected to work quickly to fill them after Joseph R. Biden assumes the presidency tomorrow.
The 64-year-old Mendez has served as a state court judge for nearly 18 years.
A former Vineland Democratic Municipal Chairman, Mendez served as county chairman from 1999 until he was named to the bench by Gov. James E. McGreevey in 2002.
Late last year, Mendez transferred a politically-charged Atlantic County election challenge to a different judge.
Mendez did not immediately respond to a 2:52 call to his office seeking comment.
As U.S. Senators from the political party of the president, Menendez and Booker will make federal judicial recommendations to the White House.
“Any potential increase in Latinx representation is certainly something to be commended and I remain hopeful that qualified Latina candidates will also be given consideration as the Biden administration settles into office,” said Laura Matos on behalf of Latinas United for Political Empowerment and LUPE PAC. “Senators Menendez and Booker continue to demonstrate why they are such incredible leaders and unique representatives for New Jersey.”
The New Jersey Globe reported last week that Menendez and Booker are expected to back Julian X. Neals, the Bergen County Counsel and acting County Administrator, for one of the federal judicial posts.
President Barack Obama nominated Neals, who served as Newark Corporation Council and Business Administrator when Booker was mayor, to the U.S. District Court in 20915.
Neals won unanimous approval from the Senate Judiciary Committee, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell never allowed a vote on his confirmation.
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.
If Biden nominates him, Mendez will increase the number of active Hispanic federal judges in New Jersey from two to three, and increase South Jersey’s representation on the federal judiciary.
Of the eleven current District Court judges, seven were named by Obama and four by George W. Bush.
This story was updated at 5:27 PM with comment from Matos.