A serious short list of seven current and former prosecutors has emerged to become the next U.S. Attorney from New Jersey after Joe Biden takes office on January 20, the New Jersey Globe has learned.
The seven – Henry Klingeman, Jenny Kramer, Phil Sellinger, Jamel Semper, Ricardo Solano, Jr., Esther Suarez and Lee Vartan – are under active consideration for the state’s top federal law enforcement job, according to sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
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 Bob Menendez, who would presumably make the recommendation to Biden after consultation with New Jersey’s other senator, Cory Booker.
Democrats won control of the U.S. Senate on Tuesday after picking up two seats in Georgia, making Biden’s path to confirm his nominees easier. It might also speed up a process that sometimes takes a while, especially with Booker holding a seat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Solano or Suarez could become the state’s first Latino federal prosecutors, and Kramer or Suarez could become the first woman U.S. Attorney since Faith Hochberg left the post in 1999 to become a U.S. District Court Judge. Semper would be the first Black to serve as U.S. Attorney in New Jersey.
Klingeman, an assistant U.S. Attorney from 1995 to 2001, is a prominent criminal defense lawyer and partner at Klingeman Cerminele. Past clients have included some high-profile public figures, including Essex County Executive James Treffinger, State Sen. Wayne Bryant, and Real Housewives of New Jersey star Theresa Giudice.
Kramer was an assistant U.S. Attorney from 2005 to 2015 and is currently a partner at Alston & Bird. She has represented Menendez, and an unknown figure in the Bridgegate investigation.
Sellinger, a partner at Greenberg Traurig, was an assistant U.S. Attorney from 1981 to 1984. He is a Democratic State Committeeman from Morris County.
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.
Solano served as First Assistant state Attorney General from 2008 to 2010 and as an assistant U.S. Attorney from 2001 to 2007. He is a partner at Friedman Kaplan Seiler & Adelman.
Suarez was named Hudson County Prosecutor in 2015. She is a former Superior Court Judge, Hoboken corporation counsel, and Bergen County law director. Suarez began her legal career as an associate at Scarinci Hollenbeck, a political influential law firm.
Vartan, the son of former Kearny Mayor Leo Vartan, was an assistant U.S. Attorney from 2007 to 2011 and an assistant counsel to Gov. Chris Christie from 2011 to 2012. He was later the chief of staff the New Jersey Attorney General and the Executive Assistant Attorney General. Vartan is now a partner at Chiesa Shahinian & Giantomasi, the firm of former U.S. Senator and Attorney General Jeff Chiesa.
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.
The list could change between now and the point when the Biden White House makes their final decision.