Gov. Phil Murphy tapped Rachel Wainer Apter, the current director of the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights and former clerk for the late U.S Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsberg, to fill in the seat of retiring Associate Justice Jaynee LaVecchia.
LaVecchia’s term expires on Aug. 31. Should the state Senate approve Apter, she would mark the governor’s second pick for the state’s high court. Over the summer, the Senate unanimously approved his first pick, Fabiana Pierre-Louis.
With both figures in their 40s and mandated retirement age of 70 years old after an initial seven-year term, Apter and Pierre-Louis could be Murphy’s chance to shape the decisions of the Supreme Court far beyond the end of his time as governor.
“At this time in our history, when state courts have never mattered more, the New Jersey Supreme Court’s long-held reputation for judicial independence and sound decision making takes on new and urgent importance,” Murphy said at the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hall at Rutgers–Newark.
In 2014, then-Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, picked longtime attorney Faustino Fernandez-Vina as a Supreme Court justice. His initial term expires next year, as does that of Barry Albin.
In addition to Fernandez-Vina and Albin, another justice’s initial seven-year term – Christie-pick Justice Lee Solomon -expires during what could be Murphy’s next term, or GOP former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli ‘s first term.
After Apter’s 13 months as a clerk with Ginsburg, she spent five years as an associate at the San Francisco law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, according to her LinkedIn profile.
She was then the head of law and justice policies on Murphy’s transition council between his November 2017 victory and his January 2018 inauguration, after which she spent several years as a senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union. Apter joined the Murphy administration in February 2018 as a counsel for the state Attorney General’s office.
“The cases that the New Jersey Supreme Court hears concern issues of fundamental importance to our state and to all of us as individuals, including how our society will live up to the promise of equal justice under the law,” she said in a March 15 statement.