Gov. Phil Murphy plans to nominate eleven new Superior Court judges as part of a diverse group aimed at enhancing the diversity of the state’s judiciary and reducing the vast number of vacancies that have created considerable backlogs within the court system.
Of the eleven new judicial candidates selected by Murphy, six are women, and six are people of color. Four of the group are from Essex County, where there are currently eight vacancies, and five are from Gloucester, where the court has six vacancies.
Murphy’s picks for judgeships include three municipal court judges, two deputy attorneys general, a former professional boxer, an attorney from the politically influential Parker McCay law firm, a former New Jersey Supreme Court law clerk, and the Republican candidate for State Senate against Steve Sweeney in 2013.
There are presently 67 vacancies on the Superior Court. The new round of judicial appointments could help Chief Justice Stuart Rabner withdraw an order that ended civil and matrimonial trials in two vicinages. Four of the nominees are from Gloucester County, which has four vacancies, and one is from Somerset, where there are four vacant seats.
One of the Essex nominees is Newark Municipal Court Judge Roslyn Holmes Grant, the wife of the director of the powerful administrative director of the state courts. Another Newark municipal court judge, Ana Esteves, a former assistant corporation counsel when Sharpe James was mayor, was also picked for an Essex judgeship. If they are confirmed, Mayor Ras Baraka will now get to name two new municipal court judges.
Murphy has also selected Sherwin Campbell, the chief judge of the East Orange Municipal Court, to serve as a Superior Court judge.
The fourth new judge for Essex will be Leonardo Hernandez, an assistant Hudson County Prosecutor who heads the homicide section.
One of Murphy’s new judges in Gloucester County is Nikki Arbittier, who won 45% of the vote ten years ago as the Republican nominee for State Senate in the 3rd district against Sweeney, then the Senate President. A former deputy chief of staff to the New Jersey State Comptroller, Arbittier is a partner at the law firm headed by Gloucester County GOP Chair Jacci Vigilante. She serves as the solicitor and municipal prosecutor for several South Jersey municipalities.
Longtime child advocate Tosca Blandford-Bynoe, a deputy attorney general who heads the Children and Family Services section, Deputy Attorney General Renard Scott, Gloucester County Undersheriff Russell DePersia, and former Mantua school board member Linda Galella are also being nominated to Superior Court judgeships.
DePersia is a criminal defense attorney, former professional boxer – he was known as “The Diamond,” he was undefeated with a 1-0 record with one knockout — and high school and college basketball star, and the author of a novel, Seasons Change, about a high school football star who suffers a traumatic head injury. His father, Robert, was the captain of detectives at the Camden County Prosecutor’s office. He helped write a 2013 state law on cyber-harassment.
A counsel at Parker McCay, the mega South Jersey law firm headed by Philip Norcross, Galella is the Pennsauken municipal solicitor and has served as a municipal prosecutor in Mantua and Winslow, representing multiple municipalities in various capacities. She has been a member of the Gloucester County Democratic Executive Committee for twelve years and the parliamentarian of the Mantua Democratic Party for the last nineteen years.
For one of the two vacant judgeships in Ocean County, Murphy has nominated Kimberley Casten, a family court mediator and domestic violence hearing officer for the New Jersey Judiciary in Ocean County, for the last six years. She spent nine years as a mediator for the New Jersey Office of Settlement Dispute.
Matthew Fedor, a partner at Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath and the former vice chair of the firm’s class actions practice, will be nominated as a Superior Court judge in Somerset County. He served as a law clerk to New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Peter Verniero and U.S. District Court Judge Katharine Hayden, litigating complex business disputes.
Murphy filed a notice of intent to nominate the new judges with the State Senate today. Formal nominations will come in seven days.