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Philip R. Sellinger. (Photo: Greenberg Traurig).

Sellinger is leading candidate for U.S. Attorney, with White House vetting in advanced stages

Morris County lawyer, an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the 1980s, is choice of Menendez, Booker

By David Wildstein, August 24 2021 3:48 pm

New Jersey’s two U.S. Senators have asked President Joe Biden to nominate Philip R. Sellinger as the next U.S. Attorney, the New Jersey Globe has learned.

With the support of Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, the White House is now vetting Sellinger – something that includes a thorough background check – with the next step being a formal nomination by the President, according to people familiar with the process.

Sellinger, 67, is the co-managing shareholder of the New Jersey office of Greenberg Traurig, a national law firm.  He served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney from 1981 to 1984.

The early front-runner for the post, Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez, withdrew her name from consideration in May.

Sellinger is active in Democratic politics.  He was re-elected in June to serve as a Democratic State Committeeman from Morris County, and has raised money for Menendez, Booker and other Democrats.

There is no clear timeline on Sellinger’s nomination or his Senate confirmation, although the White House is said to be in the advanced stages of their own internal process.

He was one of seven names on a short list of candidates published by the New Jersey Globe in January.

Another potential candidate, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jamel Semper, is expected to be promoted to a top position in the federal prosecutor’s office, the NJ Globe has learned.    He had received the backing for the top post from key Black ministers and community leaders.

Semper is currently the chief of the Organized Crime and Gangs section in the U.S. Attorney’s office.  He joined the federal prosecutor’s office in 2018 after spending ten years as an assistant prosecutor in Essex and Union counties.  He ran the Special Prosecutions Unit in Essex from 2013 to 2018.

The federal prosecutor post is traditionally filled by the senior United States Senator from the state, if that senator’s party occupies the White House.  That role now falls to  Menendez, made the recommendation in consultation with Booker.

The current acting U.S. Attorney is Rachael Honig.  She assumed the post on January 5 following the resignation of Craig Carpenito.

Carpenito was named to the post by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and approved by the state’s federal judges after the Trump White House was unable to get Menendez and Booker to sign off.

Prior to Carpenito, the post was occupied for nearly eight years by Paul Fishman, a Democrat who had been the choice of the state’s senior U.S. Senator at the time, Frank Lautenberg.

Sellinger is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and New York University Law School.  He served as a law clerk to U.S. District Court Judge Anne E. Thompson from 1979 to 1980.  He serves on the board of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.

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