Seven judicial nominees advanced for confirmation in effort to slash judge shortage

By: - June 28, 2022 6:59 am

A severe shortage of judges has backlogged cases and suspended several types of cases in some counties. (Getty Images)

A Senate panel unanimously advanced seven of Gov. Phil Murphy’s judicial nominees Monday, as the state inched toward reducing a severe shortage of judges that has backlogged cases and suspended several types of cases in some counties.

The nominees need to be approved by the full Senate before taking the bench. The Senate meets next on Wednesday.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the following nominees to become Superior Court judges:

  • Cynthia Santomauro of North Caldwell, a commercial litigator with the Hackensack-based firm Cooke & Santomauro
  • Jodi Rosenberg of Short Hills, an attorney and former Millburn deputy mayor
  • Angela Gunter Foster of Nutley, an attorney and former deputy attorney general
  • Karina D. Fuentes of Roseland, a federal public defender
  • Amy K. DePaul of Verona, trial court administrator for the Essex vicinage
  • Jennifer Critchley of Verona, a commercial litigator at the law firm Connell Foley
  • Jorge F. Coombs of Galloway, assistant municipal attorney at Atlantic City solicitor’s office

New judges typically serve a seven-year term, after which they can be reappointed.

If appointed, the nominees will help diversify a bench that remains predominantly white and male. Six of the seven nominees are women, and many touted their immigrant backgrounds on Monday.

New Jersey has so many judicial vacancies — 67 seats are empty — New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Stuart Rabner sounded an alarm last month, saying the vacancies are curtailing criminal and civil proceedings all over the state. Cutting judicial vacancies to 30 or less — levels court officials have said are sustainable — would require Gov. Phil Murphy to get more judges confirmed than he has since taking office in 2018.

Seven judges are expected to retire in July and August. The mandatory retirement age for judges in New Jersey is 70.

Sen. Brian Stack, the Senate judiciary committee’s chair, said his committee may meet once or twice over the summer to approve more nominees and further reduce the vacancies.

Committee members also unanimously voted to reappoint Secretary of State Tahesha Way, who also now must be confirmed by the full Senate.

Several other Murphy appointees continue to serve in an acting capacity, awaiting confirmation, including acting Attorney General Matt Platkin, who Murphy nominated in February, and acting Education Commissioner Angelica Allen-McMillan, who Murphy nominated in October 2020.

Nikita Biryukov contributed to this story.

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Dana DiFilippo
Dana DiFilippo

Dana DiFilippo comes to the New Jersey Monitor from WHYY, Philadelphia’s NPR station, and the Philadelphia Daily News, a paper known for exposing corruption and holding public officials accountable. Prior to that, she worked at newspapers in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and suburban Philadelphia and has freelanced for various local and national magazines, newspapers and websites. She lives in Central Jersey with her husband, a photojournalist, and their two children.