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Fabiana Pierre-Louis is nominated to the New Jersey Supreme Court by Governor Phil Murphy. (Photo: Chris Pedota.)

Pierre-Louis confirmed to New Jersey Supreme Court

By Nikita Biryukov, August 27 2020 2:04 pm

The State Senate unanimously voted to confirm former federal prosecutor Fabiana Pierre-Louis to the New Jersey Supreme Court Thursday, putting a black woman on that bench for the first time in the state’s history.

“I’m incredibly proud that the Senate has unanimously confirmed Fabiana Pierre-Louis as the next Associate Justice to serve on New Jersey’s Supreme Court. Fabiana is an exceptionally talented attorney, and will now have the historic distinction of becoming the first Black woman to be seated on our state’s highest court,” said Gov. Phil Murphy.  “I am honored to have put her name forward, and to see someone with a different set of life experiences and perspectives on our Supreme Court, a judicial body where New Jerseyans from all walks of life turn for justice. I also thank Senate President Sweeney and Chairman Scutari for their support and conducting a thorough, fair, and open confirmation process.”

State Sen. Nia Gill (D-Montclair) did not cast a vote because she was not present during Thursday’s session.

“I would like to congratulate Ms. Pierre-Louis, a first generation American and the first Black woman to serve on the New Jersey Supreme Court. This is a historical day for our state,” Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) said. “Ms. Pierre-Louis is a New Jersey success story who will bring more diversity to the highest court of the most diverse state in the country.”

She will replace Associate Justice Walter Timpone, who will reach the mandatory retirement age of 70 in November.

Timpone told the New Jersey Globe he intends to leave his post early next week if the Senate approved Pierre-Loui’s confirmation. That’ll allow Pierre Louis, who is now a partner at Montgomery McCracken, to take her seat before the start of the new Supreme Court session on Sept. 1.

Early into her career, Pierre-Louis served as a clerk for former New Jersey Supreme Court Associate Justice John Wallace. She’d be the first black person to sit on the high court since Gov. Chris Christie declined to nominate Wallace for a tenured term.

Her nomination faced few hurdles on its way through Trenton. Members from both sides of the aisle praised Pierre-Louis not long after Gov. Phil Murphy announced her nomination in early June.

Earlier this week, the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously advanced her nomination, despite some harsh questions from State Sens. Gerald Cardinale (R-Demarest) and Michael Doherty (R-Oxford) over Pierre-Louis’s stances on the Mt. Laurel Doctrine and gun control, respectively.

“We interview dozens and dozens of people regarding the nominee, and nobody said anything bad,” Senate Judiciary Chairman Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden) said Thursday. “I can’t say that about anybody else in this room.”

The nominee’s confirmation comes as no surprise. A New Jersey Globe whip count conducted in June found the daughter of Haitian immigrants had enough support to win her seat on the high court, and she only drew more support as time went on, not less.

“She will provide a perspective gained by her personal and legal experiences to a Court with the ultimate legal responsibility for cases and issues that can have a real-life impact on generations of New Jersey residents,” Sweeney said.

Pierre Louis will come up for tenure in 2027. If reconfirmed, she’d have the chance to sit on the court until 2051, when she’d turn reach the mandatory retirement age.

She graduated from Rutgers University in New Brunswick and earned her law degree from Rutgers Law School, where she was vice president of the Black Law Students Association.

Her confirmation to the court brings the bench closer to gender balance. Once she’s sworn in, there’ll be three women and four men on the New Jersey Supreme Court, up from two women and five men in the previous high court session.

“Ms. Pierre-Louise is making history as the first Black woman to serve on the State Supreme Court at a consequential time in the Nation’s history,” State Sen. Joe Cryan said (D-Union). “New Jersey is setting an example of diversity and opportunity where the daughter of immigrants rises to the highest court in the state. We can all share in the pride that Pierre-Louis’s family must have in her accomplishment and in her willingness to serve the state as a Supreme Court Justice.”

This story was updated at 2:32 PM.

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