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Superior Court nominee Linda Galella. (Photo: Parker McCay).

Three more Superior Court nominees pass Judiciary Committee muster

All from South Jersey, where judicial vacancy crisis has been especially acute

By Joey Fox, May 18 2023 11:56 am

Three nominees to seats on the New Jersey Superior Court were unanimously approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee today: Tariq Chaudhri, Tosca Blandford Bynoe, and Linda Galella, each of whom was nominated by Gov. Phil Murphy this winter.

The full Senate will hold a voting session next Monday, at which the three nominees are near-certain to be confirmed. Once they are, the total number of judicial vacancies will fall from 62 to 59.

All three are set to fill South Jersey court seats – Blandford Bynoe and Galella in Gloucester County, Chaudhri in Cumberland County – which could allow civil and matrimonial trials to resume in their vicinage after Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner halted them in February due to a lack of judges.

With budget season in full swing, the Senate is running out of time to confirm new judges before the spring session ends at the end of June – although Senate President Nick Scutari (D-Linden) could always schedule additional sessions during the summer recess for confirming judges, something he did last year.

Not including Blandford Bynoe, Chaudhri, and Galella, there are 25 nominees still awaiting Senate hearings for Superior Court judgeships. Some were just nominated earlier this month, while others are still in limbo after being nominated more than a year ago.

There’s also Michael Noriega, who was announced earlier this week as Murphy’s nominee for a seat on the New Jersey Supreme Court. Assuming Noriega is confirmed, the Supreme Court will soon have a full complement of permanent justices for the first time in a year and a half.

In addition to the three new Superior Court judges, the Judiciary Committee also cleared 14 current Superior Court judges for renomination today. (No sitting judge renominated by the governor has been denied confirmation by the Senate since 1993.)

Two Administrative Law Judge nominees, Michael Stanzione and Daniel Brown, and one nominee to the Workers’ Compensation Court, Michael Sica, were approved as well.

And several notable Democrats were cleared for non-judicial positions: Somerset County Democratic Chair Peg Schaffer for a seat on the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority; former State Senate candidate Vincent Solomeno to be deputy commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs; former Lautenberg and Booker aide Zoe Baldwin for a seat on the South Jersey Transportation Authority; former New Jersey Board of Public Utilities Commission President Jeanne Fox for a seat on the Rutgers University Board of Trustees; and Democratic fundraiser Michael DuPont for another term as a New Jersey Turnpike Commissioner.

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This story was updated at 3:08 p.m. with information about nominations other than those to the Superior Court.

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