John Jay Hoffman Delivers Remarks at New Jersey Supreme Court Nomination Announcement

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John Jay Hoffman Delivers Remarks at New Jersey Supreme Court Nomination Announcement

June 10, 2024 

Remarks as Delivered

 

Governor, thank you for your incredibly warm introduction. Thank you for this unbelievable opportunity, and thank you for having patience with me on Friday when you asked me a question that every lawyer in New Jersey dreams to be asked, and I took about 30 seconds to come out with some verbalization of a response. I appreciate that incredibly.

I am not usually stuck for words like that, but this time I was, I can only remember it actually once before. I was at Rockefeller Center, I had a diamond in my hand and the most wonderful woman in the world in front of me, and nothing came out of my mouth. So, that seemed to work out okay but I appreciate your having certainly heard the roar that was in my silence.

Parimal, thank you for walking me through this incredibly mysterious process. Thank you for your class, your professionalism. Thank you for the budding friendship that we’ve developed over the course of the past couple of years. You are an incredible credit to this Administration.

Lieutenant Governor, we spoke, you said some beautiful words that I appreciate, but the last word that you said and the words that we spoke very briefly together are what resonate to me, and that is what a blessing this is. We are all so incredibly blessed to be in the positions that we are, and thank you for recognizing that and thank you for reinforcing that. I do feel so incredibly blessed today.

Senate President Scutari, we have been having conversations for decades about difficult topics and difficult issues. You have always been such a class partner in many ways. We have been candid with each other, we have debated issues, but you have represented collegiality and you have represented what it means to be a true legislator in the state of New Jersey. Thank you so much for that.

I’d also like to thank the Judicial Advisory Panel that I was able to meet with. Boy, they’re a hot bench, I’ll tell you that much, and they should be and they better be. And they pushed and prodded and poked as they should. And it was an honor to have an opportunity to sit before them.

This is an incredibly humbling moment in my life. I, in preparation for this moment, Governor, I looked at Justice Fasciale’s introduction. And you read a quote in Justice Fasciale’s introduction from the New York Times, and it had to do with the State Supreme Court, the imprimatur, the power, the incredible success that our Supreme Court has had, and the reputation that has been built by icons of the Supreme Court.

I am fortunate enough to have learned from many of those Justices that have been on our Supreme Court. My first interview for a job in New Jersey, and my first boss, was Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, who has done, from my perspective, an incredible job presiding over a court of brilliant and dedicated Justices who set the standard for what anyone should aspire to be if they come to this court.

But it didn’t start there. I was privy to the wisdom and the genius of Robert Wilentz, and I may not have appreciated it very much at the time, because he was sitting at the dinner with my mother and my father with his wife, and I was in pajamas carrying some sort of a stuffed animal. But you could tell that guy was really, really smart. And my father told me he’s really, really smart. See, he was my father’s mentor.

I also know what it’s like to withstand the rigor of a Barry Albin searing questioning. You see, I got it as a 19-year-old, and it was never easy then, and what a phenomenal Justice that Justice Albin has been.

I’ve had the benefit and the fortune of learning from many judges who have taught me what it is and what it is like to be a wonderful judge, a true judge. I clerked on the Sixth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals for Al Engle. Al Engle was an 18-year judge on the United States Court of Appeals, but he was a year and a half as a trial judge, but he never stopped being a trial judge. And I’d sit down at his desk, and I would present a legal issue to him, and it would have come up to the U.S. Court of Appeals, and he’d say, “Stop! Tell me who are the parties, who’s affected by this, who’s impacted?” I still remember him saying, “I don’t want to know the what or the why until you tell me the who.” He would say, “justice, John, is not about our words or our books, it is about people. Never forget the impact on each and every one of them.”

But, I would say that, from a perspective of judging, to be a Supreme Court Justice, that the best role model I have didn’t wear a black robe, but taught me every day about integrity, hard work, decisiveness, fairness, respect, character, humanity. Thank you, Dad. I’ve learned from the best, and I will always strive to be better. Let me tell you one thing, I don’t approach a podium like this without you.

I know Mom would be incredibly proud. I know Mom’s watching us right now, and I know in some sort of weird ghost movie, Demi Moore, Patrick Swayze, kind of way that she tightened my tie on the walk up here, that she made sure that my shoes were shined last night.

The irony is not lost on me that the seat that we are here talking about, the seat at issue, belongs to my second boss at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Lee Solomon, Justice Solomon, who served this court with incredible dignity and with incredible respect and incredible grace, and that that seat opens up on your birthday, Dad.

I have tried to follow these principles that I’ve learned throughout my career, as a trial attorney at the Department of Justice, as a federal prosecutor in New Jersey, at the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, where I followed who I would describe as the unfollowable example of Senator Chiesa, my friend, my confidant, my brother in many ways.

And I worked these last couple of years at Rutgers, where I worked with a president who steered a steady and principled ship through a series of unimaginable storms.

And next to you is Senator Bramnick, who has been for decades, such a wonderful friend, such a great mentor, such a brilliant legislator. Thank you, Senator Bramnick, for everything that you have done for me. Thank you so much for everything you do for my family and for the state of New Jersey.

Nancy Brannegan, thanks for standing by my father’s side and our side for the past decade, with such love and support.

My sister is here to join us, my lifelong best friend. My mother- and father-in-law who have been such wonderful parents-in-law but who also brought me the greatest gift of my life. That’s my wife.

You better hold it together, alright? So, focus right here. So, Mary Jude, you’ve given so much of yourself so I could feed my soul and quench my thirst to give back to this crazy state of ours. Everybody owes you a debt of gratitude. I owe you all the love in my heart.

Mags, to my daughter, who is challenging and exceptional. You always make me dance, physically, spiritually, emotionally. Thank you, for above everything else, not wearing your Converse sneakers this morning.

Johnny – who is simply put my son, the best person ever – who has taught me that there is no hurdle that is insurmountable and that everything can be conquered with faith, with spirit, and with love.

Governor, when we sat in your office, you at the end asked me in answering my question to you, “What do you think a Supreme Court Justice should be?” You said, “Well, John, do you mind if I use a baseball analogy?” I said, “No, of course, I’m a sports fan. I may look nerdy, but I’m a sports fan.” And you said, “Well, I think a great Supreme Court Justice should be an umpire, and a great Supreme Court Justice should really know how to call balls and call strikes and be strong enough to do that.”

And I said, you know, that’s funny, because that reminds me of something, that reminds me of when I left the Attorney General’s office, and I got a picture from my friend Elie Honig, who was the Chief of the Criminal Division. And in that picture, he said, John, we want you to hang on your wall, the very quote that you told us every day in the office – and that quote was “just call it down the middle.”

If this works out – and God willing, it will if we have the blessings that we have – I will promise you, Governor, that I will one, I will continue to call it down the middle, and that two, I will never forget that it is one of us from New Jersey standing at the plate. Thank you.

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