A lawsuit challenging the postponement of Democratic county committee elections in Cape May and Atlantic counties just a few days ago already has a new judge.
The case was originally assigned to Judge James Pickering, the former Democratic county chairman in Cape May.
Now the case has been shifted to Judge Julio Mendez, the former Cumberland County Democratic chairman, court records show.
Mendez is a former Vineland Democratic municipal chairman and Democratic state committeeman from Cumberland County. He was a delegate to the 2000 Democratic National Convention pledged to Al Gore.
He served as county chairman from 1999 until 2002, when he resigned to become a Superior Court Judge.
The New Jersey Working Families Alliance and CD-2 Progressive Democrats filed a brief seeking a judicial order to force Cape May and Atlantic County Democrats to hold county committee elections this year.
Both Democratic organizations have delayed those elections until 2021, a move that essentially extends terms of incumbent committee members.
Earlier this month, Gov. Phil Murphy penned an executive order giving county party organizations the choice to delay their committee elections in an effort to facilitate safer voting amid the COVID-19 crisis.
More than a dozen county political organizations from both parties pushed their county committee elections until next year.
The progressives’ order also seeks to compel clerks in both counties to draft and print ballots that include candidates for county committee, a process that will likely become very costly if Murphy announces the June 2 primary will be handled entirely through the post, as the May 12 elections are.
Mendez has will hear oral arguments in a virtual courtroom through Zoom on April 16.
The date set for arguments is telling.
As a former county chairman, Menendez knows that April 16 is too late. County clerks will hold their ballot drawings one week earlier and the ballots go to the printer several days before the hearing.
This story was updated at 5:22 PM.