New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Tuesday named Theodore Stephens II, the longtime Essex County surrogate, as acting prosecutor in the county.
Stephens succeeds acting Prosecutor Robert Laurino. The change took effect immediately.
It was not immediately clear whether Laurino, a career prosecutor, would stay in the office in a different capacity.
Murphy promised to formally nominate Stephens to the position later this month.
“Ted has dedicated his life to public service, and his years of experience and knowledge will allow him to serve as a strong leader in this role. I look forward to working with Ted as he fulfills the mission of seeking justice for the people of New Jersey,” Murphy said in a statement.
Neither Stephens nor Laurino were immediately available for comment.
Stephens said in the statement: “I look forward to working with law enforcement and the community to ensure that the vital mission of promoting safety and justice in Essex County will be performed in accordance with the highest standards of integrity, excellence, and service.”
Also in the statement, Laurino congratulated Stephens.
“It is the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a career prosecutor. The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office is one of the most outstanding offices in the country due to the exceptional group of attorneys, detectives and support staff that have dedicated their professional careers to this office,” Laurino said.
Laurino, who has been with the prosecutor’s office since 1980, has served as acting prosecutor twice before, once from January 2010 to February 2011, and again from June 17 until Monday, taking over after then-acting Prosecutor Carolyn Murray was appointed to the Superior Court bench.
Stephens has been county surrogate, an elected position, since 2012. He most recently began his third fifth-year term.
Stephens began his legal career as an eastern regional attorney for Unisys Corp. before becoming the corporate counsel for East Orange in 1990. In 1994, he was appointed judge on the East Orange Municipal Court, and was tapped for the same position in the city of Orange in 2004.
He is a graduate of what is now Rowan University and Seton Hall University School of Law.
Stephens’ nomination, once Murphy makes it, will have to be approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and the full Senate. The committee does not, at this time, have any hearings scheduled for September.