Pierre-Louis confirmed as first Black woman to serve on N.J. Supreme Court (UPDATED)

In a historically significant moment, Fabiana Pierre-Louis was unanimously confirmed by the state Senate on Thursday afternoon, becoming the first Black woman to serve as an associate justice on the New Jersey Supreme Court.

Pierre-Louis, the daughter of Haitian immigrants who grew up in Irvington and earned her law degree in 2008 of Rutgers Law School in Camden, was confirmed by a 39-0 vote.

Gov. Phil Murphy celebrated the confirmation.

“I’m incredibly proud that the Senate has unanimously confirmed Fabiana Pierre-Louis as the next associate justice to serve on New Jersey’s Supreme Court,” he said in a statement. “Fabiana is an exceptionally talented attorney and will now have the historic distinction of becoming the first Black woman to be seated on our state’s highest court.

“I am honored to have put her name forward, and to see someone with a different set of life experiences and perspectives on our Supreme Court, a judicial body where New Jerseyans from all walks of life turn for justice. I also thank Senate President (Steve) Sweeney and (Judiciary Committee) Chairman (Nicholas) Scutari for their support and conducting a thorough, fair and open confirmation process.”

Pierre-Louis, 39, is a former federal prosecutor from Burlington County, but her back story —English was not her first language — makes her even more compelling and groundbreaking.

Her connections to the state run deep.

She attended high school (Union Catholic), college (Rutgers University) and law school (Rutgers-Camden) in the state. She also attended the Summer Institute for Pre-Legal Studies at Seton Hall Law School in the summer of 2000 — before her junior year at Rutgers. She previously has said the institute helped steer her to a career in law.

Pierre-Louis will replace Justice Walter Timpone, who is reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70.

At 39, she will be the youngest member of the court by more than 20 years. Chief Justice Stuart Rabner is 60.

Kimberly Mutcherson, the first Black woman law dean at Rutgers and co-dean of Rutgers Law School in Camden, rejoiced over the confirmation.

“Rutgers Law School is immensely proud of our alumna, Fabiana Pierre-Louis, upon her confirmation by the New Jersey Senate to the New Jersey Supreme Court,” she said in a statement.

Mutcherson said the historical significance of the confirmation should not be understated.

“With this confirmation, she becomes the first Black woman to serve on our state’s highest court at a pivotal moment in our nation’s history when we are wrestling with issues that have plagued our country since its founding,” she said. “Her experiences in law and beyond provide a firm foundation for her new role, and I am confident that she will swiftly establish herself as a thoughtful jurist committed to upholding the rule of law and protecting the integrity of the system of justice in our state and our society.”

Mutcherson said Pierre-Louis will be a role model for years to come.

“On a more personal note, in the years that I have known Ms. Pierre-Louis, I have found her to be smart, focused, compassionate and committed to being a role model and mentor to the young lawyers following in her footsteps,” she said. “I am thrilled that so many of our students will use her example to aspire to new levels of success in their own careers.”

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