Justice Pierre-Louis Makes New Jersey History

In tempestuous and turbulent times, in a country divided by race and bitter politics and a stalking virus, the New Jersey Senate this afternoon finally did something genuinely worthwhile as it unanimously and passionately affirmed the nomination of Fabiana Pierre-Louis to be an associate of the New Jersey Supreme Court. The replacement for retiring Judge Walter Timpone, Pierre-Louis, 39, is the first African-American woman to sit on the state Supreme Court.

“History,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3). [But] “Hopefully it won’t be the last day. There

Sweeney
Sweeney

should never be the reason why there is one African-American; one Latino.

“I would like to congratulate Ms. Pierre-Louis, a first generation American and the first Black woman to serve on the New Jersey Supreme Court,” Sweeney added. “This is a historical day for our state. Ms. Pierre-Louis is a New Jersey success story who will bring more diversity to the highest court of the most diverse state in the country. She will provide a perspective gained by her personal and legal experiences to a Court with the ultimate legal responsibility for cases and issues that can have a real-life impact on generations of New Jersey residents.”

The senate voted 39-0 in favor of the nominee, and took pains to note the high quality of her candidacy as Pierre-Louis and her family awaited their moment, aligned with a rare moment of grandeur for all of New Jersey – and a fairly beat-up country.

“I’m incredibly proud that the Senate has unanimously confirmed Fabiana Pierre-Louis as the next

Murphy
Murphy

Associate Justice to serve on New Jersey’s Supreme Court,” said Governor Phil Murphy, who nominated her. “Fabiana is an exceptionally talented attorney, and will now have the historic distinction of becoming the first Black woman to be seated on our state’s highest court. I am honored to have put her name forward, and to see someone with a different set of life experiences and perspectives on our Supreme Court, a judicial body where New Jerseyans from all walks of life turn for justice. I also thank Senate President Sweeney and Chairman Scutari for their support and conducting a thorough, fair, and open confirmation process.”

The daughter of Haitian immigrants, born in New York, raised in Irvington, Pierre-Louis clerked for former Associate Justice John Wallace. She is a graduate of Rutgers-Camden. She worked as an associate in Montgomery McCracken’s White Collar and Government Investigations practice group. She then served for nine years in the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey as an Assistant U.S. Attorney and the Attorney-in-Charge of the Camden Branch Office, the first woman of color to hold that position in the history of the District.

Prior to serving as the Attorney-in-Charge of the Camden Office, Pierre-Louis also served as the Attorney-in-Charge of the Trenton Branch Office from November 2016 to December 2018 and was the first woman of color to hold that position as well. In addition to working in both Trenton and Camden, Pierre-Louis worked in the Newark Office in the General Crimes Unit and the Organized Crime and Gang Unit.

“I cannot recommend her in stronger terms,” said Senator Nick Scutari (D-22), chair of the Senate Judicary Committee.

“Today is an historic day, but what makes it more special is because she is uniquely qualified,” said senator Troy Singleton (D-7). “I know the great person she will be on this bench.”

“Believe it our not, she’s a product of my district,” said Senator Ronald L. Rice (D-28), who thanked Sweeney for his support for Pierre-Louis and for his commitment to the independence of the senate, also later cited by Scutari.

“I’m proudly happy to vote for and support this nominee,” said Rice, who earlier in the senate session thanked his colleagues for their support as he grieves for his wife, who died earlier this month. The senior senator’s advice to people to pay attention to and love their spouses resonated in a room anchored by Pierre-Louis and her husband – and her parents – standing at attention with their children.

“This individual deserves much more than flowery language,” said Senator Gerald Cardinale (R-39). “I looked for flaws, and I couldn’t call any. No one called no office against her. There’s been a lot of talk about diversity. We shouldn’t vote for her because of her diversity. We should vote for her because of her ability. And her ability is exceptional.

“I am very proud to cast a vote for her, as I did in committee, for her,” added the Bergen Senator, who noted that Pierre-Luis impressed him during her senate hearing when she “Stood her ground” in the face of questioning by Cardinale and state Senator Mike Doherty (R-23).

Senator Robert Singer (R-30) likewise described himself as “thoroughly impressed” by Pierre-Louis, and celebrated her young age as a plus for the court.

On the one-hundredth anniversary of women’s right to vote, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-37) highlighted the senate judiciary committee’s unanimous support. “She knows both sides of the law,” Weinberg said. “She comes uiniquely qualified by education, experience, and even youth.”

LD15 Senator Shirley Turner of Lawrenceville
LD15 Senator Shirley Turner of Lawrenceville

Senator Shirley Turner (D-15) rose to salute Pierre-Louis, nationally contextualizing the choice in 2020. “We have the first woman of color to be nominated for a major ticket – Kamala Harris,”  said Turner, likening professional mom Pierre-Louis to legendary dancer Ginger Rogers, who did everything Fred Astaire did but backwards in high heels.

“I would not be surprised years from now that she would be the chief justice,” said Senator Dick Codey (D-27), a former acting governor of the state of New Jersey.

Sweeney then opened the machines and the senate affirmed the state’s first African-American woman to serve on the state Supreme Court.

Routinely downtrodden by its own lack of seriousness, entrenched corruption, the long shadow of New York City, the history of a racist governor who became the state’s only U.S. president to have cut his teeth on politics here, and a jagged, tale of two cities culture, New Jersey finally had what could only be described as a majestic moment.

Following the State Senate’s confirmation of Pierre-Louis Thursday as a State Supreme Court Justice, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-19) issued the following statement:

“The confirmation of Fabiana Pierre-Louis as New Jersey’s first female African-American State Supreme Court Justice is historic. Her reputation as a fair and impartial prosecutor is hard-earned and well-deserved.

“I am confident Ms. Pierre-Louis’ demonstrated intellect and legal acumen will be tremendous assets for our state’s highest court. She brings vital diversity in both age and gender. Above all, her integrity and character are unquestionable.

“There will be a litany of crucially important issues that will be brought before the court in the coming years. I have no doubt that Justice Pierre-Louis and the attributes she brings to the court will serve the residents of our state well in the decades to come.”

Assembly Judiciary Chair Raj Mukherji (D-33) issued the following statement on today’s Senate confirmation of State Supreme Court Justice Pierre-Louis:

“Today’s confirmation of Fabiana Pierre-Louis to the Supreme Court sets a historic precedent in our judiciary for women, immigrants, and all people of color.

“Ms. Pierre-Louis’ seat on the State Supreme Court is well-earned, and her well-rounded career as a federal prosecutor, defense attorney, and civil lawyer and her Jersey bona fides make her supremely qualified for the Supreme Court. Our state’s rich heritage and true value lie in its diverse communities; and our courts should be a reflection of the people they serve.

“We will all greatly benefit from her dedication to justice and legal acumen for years to come. This is a proud and historic day for our state.”

Senator Cryan

Senator Joe Cryan (D-20) issued the following statement after the Senate voted 39-0 to confirm the nomination of Ms. Fabiana Pierre-Louis to serve on the New Jersey Supreme Court:

“Ms. Pierre-Louis is making history as the first Black woman to serve on the State Supreme Court at a consequential time in the Nation’s history. New Jersey is setting an example of diversity and opportunity where the daughter of immigrants rises to the highest court in the state. We can all share in the pride that Pierre-Louis’s family must have in her accomplishment and in her willingness to serve the state as a Supreme Court Justice.”
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