Matt Platkin was confirmed by the State Senate as attorney general today, eight months after Gov. Phil Murphy nominated him to the role. The 24-10 vote fell largely along partisan lines, with most Republican senators voting against his confirmation.
The Senate’s vote doesn’t give any additional authority to Platkin, who has already been serving on an acting basis since Murphy nominated him – but it does mean he officially joins the state records as New Jersey’s 56th attorney general. It also means he joins the gubernatorial line of succession, behind Lieutenant Gov. Sheila Oliver and the leaders of each legislative chamber.
Platkin, who did not attend today’s Senate session, previously served as Murphy’s chief counsel from 2018 to 2020 before becoming a partner at Lowenstein Sandler. In February of this year, after Murphy had been sworn in for a second term, the governor chose Platkin from a pool of four finalists to succeed acting Attorney General Andrew Bruck.
The nomination was held up for months by two state senators, State Sen. Nia Gill (D-Montclair) and State Sen. and former Gov. Richard Codey (D-Roseland), who both declined to give Platkin, a Montclair resident, senatorial courtesy until they independently met with him over the summer. Once he had gotten the green light from the full Essex County delegation, Platkin was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in a special August meeting.
At that meeting, Platkin came under fire from several Republican senators, and many of their attacks were repeated at today’s confirmation vote.
“There’s no doubt that Mr. Platkin is bright, and does have a very good future ahead of him,” State Sen. Holly Schepisi (R-River Vale) said. “However, brightness doesn’t equal the experience needed to oversee 7,200 employees as the state’s chief law enforcement officer.”
Some Republicans also brought up Platkin’s role as Murphy’s chief counsel, including his involvement in the Katie Brennan rape allegations and the governor’s executive orders pertaining to Covid.
“It’s my understanding that every executive order Governor Murphy issued during the coronavirus shutdown was also signed by Mr. Platkin,” State Sen. Michael Doherty (R-Oxford) said. “Many, if not most, of my constituents felt they were abused by these executive orders. Where does the governor get the power of a king?”
But Democrats, joined by a small cohort of Republican senators, praised Platkin and said that he would be a defender of law and order in New Jersey.
“I’ve been very impressed with [Platkin] since I first got to know him,” Senate President Nick Scutari (D-Linden) said. “There’s never been a question about Mr. Platkin’s outstanding intellect, his character, his moral fiber, or his integrity… He brings the energy to that office that’s necessary to do the things that we would like to see happen.”
The three Republicans who joined with Democrats in voting yes were State Sens. Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield), Vince Polistina (R-Egg Harbor), and Bob Singer (R-Lakewood), while no Democrats voted no. Two senators, State Sens. Sam Thompson (R-Old Bridge) and Sandra Cunningham (D-Jersey City), voted present in the session’s quorum call but did not cast votes on Platkin’s nomination.