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Julien X. Neals, President Joe Biden's nominee to serve as a U.S. District Court Judge, in 2013. (Photo: WBGO-FM.)

Bergen gets ready to replace Neals

President Biden nominated county counsel and acting administrator to U.S. District Court

By David Wildstein, March 30 2021 2:39 pm

The nomination of Julien X. Neals to serve as a U.S. District Court Judge will trigger some changes in Bergen County, where he holds dual positions as county counsel and acting county administrator.

The early front runner for county counsel is John Ten Hoeve, the current acting deputy counsel and Neals’ top deputy while he was acting administrator.  Ten Hoeve, a former Park Ridge borough attorney, is an ally of County Executive James Tedesco.  When Tedesco was the mayor of Paramus, Ten Hoeve was the Planning Board attorney.

Tedesco is expected to begin a search for a new county administrator.

The timetable for Neals’ confirmation is not clear, although he is expected to move quickly through the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, where U.S. Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey is a member, and the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate.

If Tedesco’s search is not complete by the time Neals joins the bench, deputy county administrator Michael Bellucci could step in on an interim basis.

It is widely expected that Tedesco will make his decisions in consultation with the Bergen County Democratic Chairman, Paul Juliano.

“On a personal note, I am lucky to have had Julien as an integral part of my administration for the past six and a half years,” Tedesco said.  “While bittersweet, Bergen County’s loss is truly our nation’s gain.”

Tedesco praised Neals’ nomination.

“There is no person more deserving of this honor. Everyone who has had the opportunity to work with Julien knows he is a gentleman of great character, capability, and integrity, and he will serve the federal bench with fairness and distinction,” Tedesco said.  “This nomination is well overdue, and I applaud President Joe Biden and New Jersey Senators Cory Booker and Bob Menendez for moving it forward.

After Tedesco defeated Republican incumbent Kathleen Donovan in 2014, he appointed Neals as Bergen County Counsel.  In 2016, Tedesco moved County Administrator Dominic Novelli to run the Bergen Regional Medical Center and gave Neals a second job: acting county administrator.

In February 2015, Neals was nominated to the federal bench by President Barack Obama.  Despite approval by the Judiciary panel, his nominating languished for 677 days after Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to schedule a confirmation vote by the full Senate.  Neals’ nomination expired with the swearing in of President Donald Trump.

Prior to taking a job in Bergen County, Neals held top posts in Newark while Booker was mayor.  He was the chief municipal court judge, he city’s corporation counsel, and Newark business administrator.

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