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Acting New Jersey Attorney General Matt Platkin. (Photo: Tim Larsen/Office of the Attorney General).

Platkin’s nomination as attorney general clears Senate committee

Full confirmation vote isn’t expected until the fall

By Joey Fox, August 08 2022 1:52 pm

Six months after he was nominated by Gov. Phil Murphy, acting Attorney General Matt Platkin cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee today in an 8-2 vote, following pointed questioning from several Republican senators. Platkin will likely come before the full Senate for confirmation this fall.

“I promise to continue prioritizing our response to some of the most important and challenging issues facing our state,” Platkin said in his introductory remarks. “Combating gun violence, fighting for racial justice, strengthening police-community relations, promoting accountability for social media enterprises, ensuring reproductive rights access, addressing the rise in auto thefts, providing meaningful relief and trauma-informed services to victims of crime, and protecting New Jersey in court.”

Though the full Senate is holding a session later today to confirm a number of gubernatorial nominees, Platkin will not be among them. (The “acting” in front of Platkin’s title has no bearing on his authority as attorney general, reducing the urgency of his confirmation.)

Prior to his nomination as attorney general, Platkin served as Murphy’s chief counsel, and has been an advisor to the governor since 2016.

As a longtime member of Murphy’s inner circle, Platkin came under heavy scrutiny from State Sen. Michael Doherty (R-Oxford), who pressed him on Murphy’s Covid policies and on Katie Brennan’s 2018 rape claim against former Murphy administration official Al Alvarez.

“This legislature had a legislative select oversight committee [on the Brennan case] that was very critical of you and the lack of transparency, the lack of legal judgment,” Doherty said. “Would you do anything different in retrospect?”

“There are things, certainly, we would have done differently with hindsight,” Platkin said. “But I think it’s important also for the committee to consider the work that I have done, this administration has done, and this state has done since that time [to reform policies regarding sexual assault claims].”

Doherty’s fellow Republican State Sen. Anthony M. Bucco (R-Boonton), meanwhile, challenged Platkin on his public advocacy for liberal policies.

“What I’ve seen, out of your office, is … more of a shift to promoting progressive political policies that may have national implications,” Bucco said, specifically referencing Platkin’s recent amicus brief against Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law. “That concerns me, because we do that at the expense of our taxpayers while crime is rising all over the state.”

Several Democratic senators also brought up concerns over bail reform, car theft, and other criminal justice issues, though their questions were not designed to directly challenge Platkin’s record. 

Doherty and Bucco voted no on Platkin’s nomination, while State Sen. Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield) joined every Democrat on the committee in voting yes. State Sen. Kristin Corrado (R-Totowa), who has sharply criticized Platkin in the past for his role in the Brennan case, was not present.

“I believe you’re qualified, and if you’re qualified, you will have my vote,” Bramnick told Platkin. “I want to make sure that the public understands that my job, as a senator, is to determine whether you’re qualified, not whether I agree with you.”

While Republicans may have led the opposition to Platkin at today’s meeting, it was two Democratic senators who were behind the six-month delay in his nomination. As an Essex County resident, Platkin had to get signoff from Essex’s four senators, and two of them – State Sen. Nia Gill (D-Montclair) and State Sen./former Gov. Richard Codey (D-Roseland) – held out for months.

Both Gill and Codey eventually relented this summer, however, and Gill glowingly introduced Platkin’s nomination today.

“Given Mr. Platkin’s background, with which we are all familiar, we know he comes obviously qualified, committed to serve, and prepared to advance the rule of law and justice,” Gill said.

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