Governor Makes Historic Choice for NJ Supreme Court

Gov. Phil Murphy today nominated Fabiana Pierre-Louis to serve as an Associate Justice to the New Jersey Supreme Court. If confirmed by the Senate, she would be the first black woman to serve on the state’s highest court.

Murphy said at a press conference this morning the choice of Pierre-Louis was not made because of the current national discussion around race and systemic bias, adding that the search process for a Supreme Court Justice took many months.

Fabiana Pierre-LouisHowever, he did say that “given the challenges which are being brought to the forefront of our society, and the questions which will undoubtedly rise to reach our Supreme Court – core issues of socioeconomic equality and equity – there is no better meeting of an individual and the times.”

Pierre-Louis would assume the seat of Associate Justice Walter Timpone, who will reach the mandatory retirement age of 70 in November. She also would assume the seat of former Justice John Wallace, the state’s second African-American justice for whom Pierre-Louis clerked for after she graduated from Rutgers Law School in Camden.

“I gained a phenomenal mentor in Justice Wallace,” Pierre-Louis said at this morning’s conference. “Never could I have imagined to be nominated to the same seat he once occupied.”

She said it is humbling to be nominated to the New Jersey Supreme Court, adding, “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. I have spent the majority of my career in public service and I look forward to returning to the important work of serving the people of New Jersey.”

Speaking of her qualifications, Murphy said, “Fabiana brings with her a sharp legal mind and a perspective which will be greatly beneficial to the proceedings of our Supreme Court.”

Raised in Irvington, Pierre-Louis received her bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University-New Brunswick. She then proceeded to graduate from Rutgers Law School-Camden with high honors.

She is currently a partner in the Cherry Hill office of Montgomery, McCracken, Walker & Rhoads, where she is part of the White Collar and Government Investigations practice group. She worked at the same firm as an associate in her first three years out of law school, until 2010.

Afterwards, she served in the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey for nine years, working in each of the District’s three offices, in Newark, Trenton  and Camden.

In 2016, she was appointed Attorney-in-Charge of the Trenton office, the first woman of color to ever hold that position. Then in 2018, she was appointed Attorney-in-Charge of the Camden office, again the first woman of color to hold that position.

In addition to overseeing the work of the attorneys in Trenton and Camden, Pierre-Louis investigated and prosecuted her own cases, including those dealing with public corruption, defense contracting fraud and national security, narcotics offenses, child sexual exploitation, and allegations of racial bias by law enforcement.

In Trenton, she played a central role in the creation of the Trenton Reentry Court, which provides additional assistance to recently released federal offenders to further aid their reentry into society.

“As a federal prosecutor, my goal was always to see that justice was done. I also understood the importance of making sure that individuals who served time in prisons should also have the opportunity and ability to succeed in life after prison. That is why I was extremely proud to be part of the creation of the Trenton Reentry Court in the district,” she said.

The daughter of Haitian immigrants, Pierre-Louis, who is fluent in Haitian Creole, said her parents “came from Haiti with not much more than the clothes on their backs and the American dream in their hearts. They have achieved that dream beyond measures because my life is certainly not representative of the traditional trajectory of someone who would one day be nominated to sit on the Supreme Court of New Jersey. … Standing here today, I know I have truly lived and continue to live the American dream my parents were in search of.”

Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver, in light of the national social unrest the nation has been experiencing since the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, commented, “With everything going on in the world around us, I have had no reason to smile recently. Today, I cannot stop smiling. … Across the country there are 33 states that do not have a woman of color on their highest court. Sadly, New Jersey – for all of our professed progressive values – has stood among those 33. I cannot wait to see us leave that list with Fabiana’s confirmation. … She is proof of what is possible when one cannot limit themselves to what others think they can do because of their station in life,  but what they themselves think they can do. Fabiana has proved that with her career.”

Among her many affiliations, Pierre-Louis is a board member of the Rutgers Law School-Camden Alumni Association and a trustee with the Association of the Federal Bar of New Jersey. She is a prior board member of the Haitian American Lawyers Association of New Jersey, and a member of the Garden State Bar Association, and the Association of Black Women Lawyers of New Jersey, among others.

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