TRENTON, NJ — Gov. Phil Murphy on Friday said he intends to nominate Fabiana Pierre-Louis to the New Jersey Supreme Court — a historic move removing New Jersey from the list of 33 states without a black woman on their top courts.
“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, said during a press conference this morning.
Pierre-Louis, 39, was raised by Haitian immigrants in Irvington. If sworn-in, she would take Walter “Wally” Timpone’s place on the court. Timpone, who has served since 2016, will turn 70 in November and by law he must retire.
Pierre-Louis, once served as a clerk for John Wallace, who was the last African American to serve as justice on the New Jersey Supreme Court.
“Never could I imagine that I would be nominated to sit in the same exact seat that he once occupied,” Pierre-Louis said Friday. “I have spent my entire legal career in New Jersey,” she added. “It is extremely humbling to be nominated, and I am extremely enthusiastic at the opportunity to continue the proud tradition of the Supreme Court’s commitment to justice, equality and fairness.”
The first nominee by Gov. Murphy, Pierre-Louis could serve as many as three decades. Her lifetime tenure would be decided by the governor and Senate after serving for seven years.
The process to nominate Pierre-Louis began months ago, Murphy said, meaning it was not done in direct response to the public outcry over the killing of George Floyd by the Minneapolis Police.
“However, 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,” he said.
Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, the first black woman to serve as Assembly Speaker, said,” Fabiana is proof that the American Dream lives.”
“We will have a justice on our Supreme Court whose lived experience will educate her peers on the bench of our highest court as they grapple with these issues," Oliver said.
Her arrival on the court would alter the gender balance to four men and three women (whereas now five men and two women serve).
Pierre-Louis, currently a Mount Laurel resident, received a bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University-New Brunswick and graduated from Rutgers Law School-Camden with High Honors.
Today, she is a partner at Montgomery, McCracken, Walker & Rhoads, where she initially started as an associate in her first three years out of law school.
Before she returned to Montgomery McCracken in 2019, Pierre-Louis 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 Office, the first woman of color to hold that position in the history of the District.
Pierre-Louis also previously worked in the General Crimes Unit and the Organized Crime and Gang Unit in Newark.