Help is on the way for Superior Court vicinages with depleted judge ranks, as Gov. Chris Christie on Monday announced his first major round of judicial nominations in 2013.
Christie filed notices of intent for 14 nominations — seven of them new and seven previous ones who weren’t pushed through before the end of the last legislative session.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Nicholas Scutari, D-Union, sees a smooth path to confirmation. “They’re going to move pretty quickly,” he says. “We have a fairly broad agreement on most of these nominees.”
Of the new candidates, two are from Union County, and one each is from Camden, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth and Somerset.
• Bradford Bury, D-Watchung (Somerset), is a Mountainside solo practicing civil litigation — including personal injury, whistleblower and discrimination cases — and white-collar criminal defense, matrimonial and estate matters. A 1978 Villanova Law School graduate, he spent five years as an assistant county prosecutor, first in Union then in Morris, and has been in private practice since 1983.
• Linda Mallozzi, D-Union (Union), a solo practitioner, handles family, personal injury, criminal, real estate, workers’ compensation and other matters. A 1982 Seton Hall Law School graduate, she was an assistant Somerset County prosecutor from 1984 to 1987 and since then has been in private practice.
• Christopher Rafano, D-South River (Middlesex), is a partner at Rafano & Wood in South River, where he focuses on personal injury, divorce and real estate matters. A 1985 graduate of Penn State University’s Dickinson School of Law, he has been a Middlesex County freeholder since 1998 and is municipal prosecutor for Woodbridge and Jamesburg.
• Nesle Rodriguez, D-Jersey City (Hudson), has been a full-time judge in the city’s municipal court since 2006 and chief judge since 2008. She is a 1990 graduate of Rutgers School of Law-Newark and has served as a court-appointed guardian ad litem in custody matters.
• Donald Stein, D-Haddon Heights (Camden), has since 2004 been an administrative law judge sitting in Trenton. A 1981 Delaware Law School graduate, he was in private practice as a general litigator for more than two decades and served as prosecutor or public defender for several municipalities in Camden County.
• James Wilson, D-Roselle (Union), is a senior staff attorney of Central Jersey Legal Services in Elizabeth, where he has spent 16 years and handles family law matters. He is a 1994 graduate of the Southern University Law Center in Baton Rouge, La.
• Mara Zazzali-Hogan, D-Shrewsbury (Monmouth), is a partner at Gibbons in Newark, where her father, former Supreme Court Chief Justice James Zazzali, also practices. She practices business and commercial litigation and is the firm’s pro bono coordinator. She is a 1998 graduate of Seton Hall University School of Law.
Christie filed notices of intent to renominate seven other judiciary candidates whose nominations — announced in May and June 2012 — expired at year’s end. Four are from Monmouth County; one each is from Middlesex, Morris and Passaic.
• Peter Bogaard, R-Chester (Morris), has been in private practice since graduating from the University of Notre Dame Law School in 1988 and has headed Bogaard & Associates in Chester since 2007, concentrating in personal injury, business consulting, real estate and land use matters. A former Chester Borough Council member, he served on Christie’s law and public safety transition team following the 2009 election.
• J. Randall Corman, R-Sayreville (Middlesex), is a workers’ compensation judge sitting in New Brunswick. A 1985 Rutgers Law School-Newark graduate, he was a Republican state senator from 1992 to 1994, and the N.J. Turnpike Authority’s law director from 1997 to 2002.
• Angela White Dalton, R-Howell (Monmouth), is a partner at Zager Fuchs in Red Bank, where she litigates guardianship, disability, estate and other matters. A 1995 graduate of Rutgers Law School-Camden, she is treasurer of the New Jersey State Bar Association.
• Katie Gummer, R-Rumson (Monmouth), is a litigation partner at DLA Piper in Florham Park, where she represents financial-services clients, including life and health insurance companies. She graduated from Yale Law School in 1990.
• Daniel Lindemann, R-Wayne (Passaic), has headed a Totowa firm since 2008. For 17 years before that, he was at Cranford’s Dughi & Hewit, Christie’s former firm. He is a 1987 graduate of Indiana University’s Mauer School of Law.
• Arnold Natali Jr., D-Little Silver (Monmouth), is a partner at McCarter & English in Newark, where he represents corporate clients in complex insurance matters. He is a 1989 Seton Hall Law graduate.
• Joseph Oxley, R-Red Bank (Monmouth), is a partner at Scarinci Hollenbeck in Freehold, where he heads the firm’s risk management group. A 1983 Delaware Law School graduate, he was an assistant Monmouth County prosecutor from 1984 to 1986, in private practice from 1986 to 1996 and Monmouth County sheriff from 1996 to 2008.
Nominees, if confirmed, are not guaranteed to be assigned to sit in the counties where they reside.
Also on Monday, the governor filed notices of intent to renominate five sitting Superior Court judges: Bonnie Mizdol and Kenneth Slomienski of Bergen, Sherry Hutchins-Henderson of Essex, Arthur Bergman of Middlesex and Robert Mega of Union.
A confirmation hearing for the sitting judges is set for Monday, and other proceedings are yet to be scheduled, says Scutari, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Scutari adds that another round of judicial nominees is likely coming soon. “It’ll probably be at least another six, I think,” he says. “We’re trying to get some compromise.”
There were no nominations for Essex County judgeships this time, and there likely won’t be in the next round, Scutari says. But “there are other problem areas” with rampant vacancies being addressed, such as Middlesex and Union, he adds.
As of Feb. 1, there are 55 vacancies statewide out of 443 judgeships (including the Appellate Division). There are 17 in Essex; 10 in Union; eight in Middlesex; five in Monmouth; three each in Camden, Hudson and Morris; two in Burlington; and one each in Bergen, Mercer, Ocean and Somerset, according to court statistics.
Without new appointments and when accounting for scheduled departures, vacancies in Essex would reach 21 by Sept. 1, says Assignment Judge Patricia Costello. The most recent departures are Judges Rachel Davidson and Denise Cobham, who resigned as of Jan. 11 and Feb. 1, respectively.
The Essex judge shortage — made worse by Christie’s refusal to make any new nominations due to a stalemate with Senate Democrats — prompted Costello to adopt crisis-control measures. In December 2011, she declared a state of emergency and suspended all divorce trials and trials of civil cases on Track 3 and Track 4, including complex matters ranging from product liability to toxic torts and from professional malpractice to affordable housing.
Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak did not respond to a call and email seeking comment on possible action to fix the Essex shortage.