Aimee Belgard, a rarity as a Democrat who served on the Republican-dominated Burlington County Freeholder Board, has been sworn in as a state Superior Court judge. She was assigned to handle small claims and landlord-tenant cases in Mount Holly beginning Tuesday.
Belgard, who was a trial lawyer for 14 years, lost her bid for reelection to a second three-year term on the board in a close race last month. Last year, she ran for a congressional seat in a hotly contested race to represent South Jersey's Third District.
At her swearing-in Friday, Belgard described her appointment to a judgeship as "another opportunity for me to serve the people of Burlington County and the state of New Jersey," according to published reports. She resigned immediately as a freeholder.
Belgard, 41, lives in Edgewater Park and previously was a member of the township committee there. She earned a law degree from Widener University in 1999 after receiving a bachelor of science degree in environmental studies from what is now Stockton University. She worked for the Sweeney & Sheehan law firm in Westmont between 1999 and 2013, trying cases in Superior Court and filing appeals.
Assignment Judge Ronald E. Bookbinder, who administered the oath, has called Belgard "a quality trial lawyer" and has said he is thankful she was assigned to Burlington County.
The county's 17-judge vicinage had lost three judges to retirement and reassignment since July, and Bookbinder said Judge Marc Baldwin would retire at the end of this month.
Bookbinder said two of the vacancies would be filled by Belgard and Guy P. Ryan, a Pine Beach, Ocean County, lawyer who also was sworn in Friday. Ryan was a lawyer for 25 years after obtaining a law degree from Seton Hall University. He previously served as a municipal solicitor and prosecutor in several townships. Bookbinder said Ryan is "known as a smart, hardworking, and experienced lawyer" and will be assigned to Family Court.
Then, on Feb. 1, Superior Court Judge Gerard H. Breland will be reassigned from Hudson County to Burlington County, to help replace the judges who have retired, Bookbinder said. Breland, a Burlington Township resident, was an assistant prosecutor in Hudson County for 23 years before he was named a judge in that North Jersey county in 2014.