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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.)

U.S. Senate confirms Neals as a federal judge

More than 4 years after McConnell stalled his nomination, New Jerseyan gets 66 yes votes

By David Wildstein, June 08 2021 2:04 pm

The U.S. Senate today confirmed the nomination of Julien X. Neals as a U.S. District Court Judge by a 66-33 vote.

Neals’ confirmation came 19 days after the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee approved his nomination and 71 days after President Joe Biden nominated Neals for the post – a much shorter wait that the 677 days his nomination sat idle before the 114th Congress adjourned.

President Barack Obama originally nominated Neals in February 2015, to replace retiring Judge Faith Hochberg.  The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Neals in September, but McConnell never allowed the full Senate to vote on his confirmation.

“Mr. Neals is an outstanding nominee who has devoted his entire career to the practice of law in his home state of New Jersey.  Throughout his three decades in the legal profession, he served in many diverse roles,” said U.S. Senator Bob Menendez.  “Every step of the way, he has impressed those around him with his integrity, sound judgment, and commitment to equal justice and fair administration of the law.”

Seventeen Republican Senators voted in support of Neals’ nomination.  U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders was absent today and did not vote.

“I have had the privilege and the honor of knowing Julien Neals for close to the past two decades, and I have watched how he handles some of the most difficult challenges– from a global recession to a hurricane — he is the kind of person you want making important decisions during times of crisis,” said U.S. Senator Cory Booker. “Additionally, he is one of the most intelligent, thoughtful and deliberate people I have ever had the chance to work with and he is not only eminently qualified to serve on the U.S. District Court of New Jersey, he is exactly the kind of person and the kind of jurist we need right now. I thank President Biden for nominating him and I applaud his confirmation.”

The Senate did not vote on the nomination of another District Court nominee, U.S. Magistrate Zahid Quaraishi.  He was also approved the Judiciary Committee last month.

Prior to his nomination to serve as a federal judge, 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.

Booker, who serves on the Judiciary Committee, appealed to senators to trust his endorsement of Neals.

Six federal judgeships in New Jersey are currently vacant, about one-third of the U.S District Court.

In April, Biden nominated Christine O’Hearn, a partner at Brown & Connery, to serve as a U.S. District Court Judge.

Neals was named to replace Judge Peter Sheridan, and Quaraishi is taking the place of Judge William Martini, a former congressman.  O’Hearn was named to replace Judge Robert Kugler.  All three judges are now on senior status.

Neals is currently serving as the Bergen County Counsel and acting county administrator. He’s been in Bergen for the last five years.

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

Menendez said that “multiple judicial vacancies on the court have led the Judicial Conference of the United States to declare a judicial emergency”

“The court is short-staffed by a third, leaving each of our seated judges with a mind-boggling caseload of 2,700 pending cases,” said Menendez. “That’s a caseload more than three times higher than the national average.”

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