The U.S. Senate confirmed long time South Jersey attorney Georgette Castner to serve on New Jersey’s federal bench on Thursday.
At 42, Castner becomes the youngest member of the state’s district court, filling a seat that’s been vacant since 2019 and bringing its gender breakdown to nine women and seven men.
The U.S. Senate voted 52-47 in favor of President Joe Biden’s nominee, largely along party lines with a handful of Republicans supporting the former litigator and aide to former Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, D-Mercer, now Trenton mayor, from 2001-2003.
New Jersey’s two U.S. Senators praised Castner’s qualifications and legal acumen.
“I’m confident her outstanding qualifications and her commitment to justice will make her an excellent, impartial federal judge,” Menendez said in a statement. “During her 15 years of experience in state and federal litigation, Ms. Castner has gained a reputation as one of the brightest and most hardworking attorneys in our state.”
“I celebrate the confirmation of Georgette Castner to the [U.S.] District Court for the District of New Jersey,” said U.S. Sen. Cory Booker in a statement. “She is extraordinarily well-qualified to serve our state and our country as a federal judge. She brings to the federal bench her extensive legal expertise and a clear commitment to the people of the great State of New Jersey.”
Closer to home, Gov. Phil Murphy also praised Castner, who’s married to his former Cabinet member and firearms policy adviser, William Castner. Considered to have the governor’s ear on policy matters, Bill Castner left the Murphy Administration in January 2020 to join Connell Foley in the firm’s Cherry Hill office.
“Through her extensive litigation experience, Georgette has earned wide respect throughout New Jersey’s legal community, and I know that she will honorably serve the people of New Jersey in her new role,” Murphy said in a statement following the U.S. Senate’s confirmation.
Senate President Nicholas Scutari, D-Union, the immediate past Chair of the state Senate Judiciary Committee, said Castner brings distinctive qualities to the district court.
“Judge Georgette Castner has a unique blend of youth, experience and extraordinary intellect,” Scutari said in a text to NJ Advance Media on Saturday. “I couldn’t be happier for Judge Castner and her husband Bill and their entire family as she becomes the next United States District Court judge for New Jersey.
Castner received her bachelor’s degree from The College of New Jersey in 2002 and her law degree from Rutgers Law School in Camden in 2006. She served as a law clerk for Superior Court Judge Joseph Lisa from 2006 to 2007.
She joined the 100-member law firm Montgomery McCracken Walker and Rhoads in 2007 in Cherry Hill as an associate and rose to become partner in 2015. There Castner worked on complex commercial litigation and white-collar and government investigations, co-chaired the firm’s cannabis law practice group and became a member of its diversity committee.
While at Montgomery McCracken, Castner was a close colleague of Fabiana Pierre-Louis’s for a decade. Pierre-Louis was nominated by Murphy to become the first African-American woman jurist on the New Jersey Supreme Court in summer 2020 and confirmed by the state Senate later that year.
Castner and Pierre-Louis, 40, were also classmates at the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University before embarking on their legal careers. Castner listed Pierre-Louis as a reference on her judicial nomination.
When answering questions posed by U.S. Sen. Chuck Grasley, R-IA, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Castner said she would maintain judicial independence and abstain from professing political positions on campaigns and/or candidates.
“Pursuant to the Code of Conduct for United States Judges, a judge should endeavor to be independent and impartial in order to maintain public confidence in our judicial system,” Castner said in the questionnaire. “Also, a judge should not allow family, social, political, financial, or other relationships to influence judicial conduct or judgment.”
Castner’s confirmation brings the District of New Jersey bench just one judge short of a having a full house. Steady confirmations over the past nine months under Biden have chipped away at vacancies that plagued the district court under former President Trump. Observers said the vacancies, along with the punishing caseloads, pushed it to the brink and delayed justice for many.
Judges Zahid Quraishi, Julien Neals, Karen Williams and Christine O’Hearn were all confirmed by the U.S. Senate since June 2021.
The seat Castner is filling became vacant in 2019, when Chief Judge Jose Linares retired and joined McCarter & English in Newark.
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