SOMERVILLE, NJ – Surrounded by family, his peers, his mentors, members of the judiciary and the political elite of Somerset County, Michael H. Robertson was formally sworn in as Somerset County Prosecutor Thursday afternoon, promising to ramp up the war against drugs and to reach out to the community for help.
“I am committed to engaging in a dialogue with people from all over the county; I will listen to what you have to say,” Robertson said.
The ceremony took place in the historic Somerset County Courthouse, where the 41-year-old Robertson began his career in public service 15 years ago serving as a law clerk for former Superior Court Judge Victor Ashrafi.
Appointed more than a year ago by Gov. Chris Christie as Acting Prosecutor, Robertson thanked Ashfari, and his predecessor, former Somerset County Prosecutor Geoffrey Soriano for his assistance and guidance during the transition last March. Both attended the ceremony as did dozens of attorneys, county prosecutors, family members and other invited guests that came to celebrate Robertson’s installation to a five-year term. He was confirmed by the Senate Judiciary Committee Dec. 19 and approved unanimously by the state Senate.
“I am overwhelmed and humbled by the group of people before me,” Robertson said.
Rep. Leonard Lance, R-7th fresh off a contentious Town Hall meeting at Raritan Valley Community College - where he fielded questions about President Donald Trump, Russia, immigration and impeachment - said he and Robertson agree the federal government must step up and pay for the blanket of protection provided by local law enforcement when Trump visits what Lance jokingly referred to as “Camp David North,” Trump’s golf course in Bedminster.
Other speakers included state Sen. Chris “Kip” Bateman who marshaled Robertson’s nomination and approval through the state Senate, state Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino and Robertson’s former boss, Paul J. Fishman, US Attorney for the District of New Jersey.
“You’re part of the family,” Bateman said in his remarks, noting that Robertson had grown up in Bridgewater and graduated from Ridge High School in Bernards.
Looking on were his wife, Michele and two young children, Ashlyn and William Robertson, both of whom led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance. The family resides in Basking Ridge.
Somerset County Assignment Judge Yolanda Ciccone administered the oath of office.
Rev. Ron Pollock of St. John's Episcopal Church in Somerville offered the Invocation and Benediction.
More than 200 people attended the 90-minute ceremony, which concluded with Robertson thanking those he has worked with and worked for; his close family and extended family including in-laws and cousins; his staff and detectives and law enforcement officers throughout Somerset County.
Robertson emphasized the challenges faced by those in law enforcement, as well as his insistence that those in uniform enforcing the laws must be professional and accountable.
“I will have your back,” he assured them.
Robertson choked up for a moment when he spoke about his uncle, William Robertson, for whom his son is named. Robertson served as the US Attorney for the District of New Jersey in 1980-81, which is where Robertson worked before he was appointed by Christie.
“He had a huge influence on me; I molded my career after him,” Robertson said.
Robertson grew up in a law-and-order family.
His father is a retired Secret Service agent who once worked on President Reagan’s detail; his brother is a detective in Summit; an uncle who worked as a narcotics detective in the Somerset County Prosecutor’s office is a retired Plainfield Police captain.
“Mike is as driven as anyone to make Somerset a better, safer county,” Porrino said.
The state Attorney General complimented Robertson on his “incredible” public service career.
Robertson graduated Ridge High School in 1995 and attended Penn State graduating in 1999. He earned his law degree from Hofstra University in 2002 and went into private practice for a year after clerking for Ashrafi. One year later he joined the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office and was hired in 2008 by Christie, who was then serving as the state’s U.S. Attorney.
Christie hired Robertson a second time when the governor called him to replace Soriano.
Fishman was effusive in his praise of Robertson, ticking off a list of positive character traits – respectful, calm, gentle, resolute, generous, precise, tough but fair and courteous.
He also described Robertson as unflappable, equally adept at prosecuting street level criminals and white collar crime.
“By honoring Mike, we celebrate the best of public service,” Fishman added.