New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said Friday that he would nominate Cherry Hill lawyer Fabiana Pierre-Louis to the state Supreme Court, where she would be the first black female justice.
Pierre-Louis, 39, is a partner with the law firm Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads LLP, and a former federal prosecutor. She served nine years as an assistant U.S. attorney in New Jersey, and held leadership roles as attorney-in-charge of the Trenton and Camden offices. Pierre-Louis was the first woman of color to hold those positions.
Murphy’s nomination is subject to confirmation by the state Senate.
“Justice cannot be blind if those who sit on our highest and most powerful bench are not surrounded by colleagues who encompass the full range of the American experience, whether it be racially or generationally, or both,” Murphy, a Democrat, said at the Trenton War Memorial.
He described Pierre-Louis as a groundbreaking lawyer who, as a prosecutor, handled cases involving public corruption, national security, child sexual exploitation, and “allegations of racial bias by law enforcement.”
In Trenton, she helped create a reentry court that helps former offenders gain their footing outside incarceration.
“It is extremely humbling to be nominated, and I am beyond excited and enthusiastic at the opportunity to continue the proud tradition of the Supreme Court’s commitment to justice, equality, and fairness," Pierre-Louis said.
The daughter of Haitian immigrants, Pierre-Louis described spending her early childhood “living in a cramped two-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn with seven family members.” English was not her first language.
They moved to Irvington, N.J., and Pierre-Louis went on to receive her bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University in New Brunswick and her law degree from the Rutgers-Camden Law School, graduating with high honors, the governor said.
“I know I have truly lived and continue to live the American Dream that my parents came to this country in search of,” Pierre-Louis said.
Pierre-Louis would take the seat on the seven-member high court being vacated by Associate Justice Walter Timpone, who will reach the mandatory retirement age of 70 in November. Timpone was appointed by Republican Gov. Chris Christie in 2016, ending a years-long standoff with the Democratic-controlled Senate over the court’s ideological makeup.
That began when Christie took the unprecedented step in 2010 of refusing to renominate Justice John Wallace, for whom Pierre-Louis once clerked. Democrats were outraged by Christie’s ouster of the court’s lone black jurist.
Timpone is a Democrat, so Murphy’s pick likely will not significantly alter the court’s ideological composition. Of the remaining justices on the bench, four were appointed by Christie, and two by Democratic governors.
Murphy said he had not selected Pierre-Louis because of the nationwide protests over police brutality and systemic racism, noting that the vetting process takes months.