Senators Fill New Jersey Federal Judge Post

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The U.S. Senate on Wednesday voted to fill a seat on the New Jersey Federal Court, the second judicial nomination lawmakers have approved in just over a week.
     After breaking a nearly month-long drought in confirming judicial nominations last week, the Senate on Wednesday afternoon confirmed Judge Brian Martinotti to take the retiring Stanley R. Chesler’s seat on the New Jersey federal bench.
     President Barack Obama nominated Martinotti on June 11, 2015, along with Robert Rossiter Jr., who the Senate confirmed to a spot on the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska last week.
     Martinotti’s confirmation is the 22nd of the current Congress and leaves 57 nominees still waiting to take a spot on a court, according to the United States Courts website. The Senate approved his nomination with a 92-5 Wednesday afternoon.
     “Judge Martinotti possesses a sharp legal mind, a breadth of experience, and he is prepared to do the work of a federal jurist,” Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., said on the floor before the vote.
     Martinotti served on the Superior Court of New Jersey and was one of three judges in the state who handled multicounty litigation of mass torts, according to a White House press release announcing his nomination.
     “Judges must understand that each case may be a litigant’s only interaction with the justice system,” Martinotti wrote to Senate Judiciary Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley in response to a routine judicial nominee questionnaire during his nomination process. “Therefore, a judge should be patient, fair and impartial. I believe that during my 13 years on the Superior Court bench I have demonstrated that I meet this standard.”
     Before taking up the mass torts docket in 2009, Martinotti oversaw challenges to New Jersey’s Mount Laurel law, a controversial New Jersey Supreme Court opinion that directed municipalities had to use their zoning powers to give low income people a shot at affordable housing.
     Martinotti also dealt with environmental cases before the court, including a case with more than 600 plaintiffs who claimed they had been exposed to toxic substances because they lived close to a landfill in Upper Ringwood, N.J. He put the case at the top of the list of 10 significant cases he presided over in his answer to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s questionnaire.
     The matter went to confidential settlement in January 2010, but Martinotti denied a motion to seal the record in the case. Attorneys on both sides praised Martinotti’s handling of the case and predicted his success on the federal bench.
     Frank V. Floriani, a member of New York firm Sullivan Papain who represented the plaintiffs in the mass tort, told Courthouse News that Martinotti was “extremely fair” to both sides in the case and had the “epitome of what you would expect of a judicial temperament.”
     “I expect that he will be a fabulous member of the federal judiciary,” Floriani said in an interview.
     Mark Semeraro, a partner at New Jersey law firm Kaufman Semeraro who defended the borough of Ringwood in the case, said Martinotti has a “tremendous intellect” and the demeanor to match.
     “There aren’t too many judges that could have handled it,” Semeraro said in an interview, referring to the massive environmental suit.
     Martinotti graduated from Fordham University in 1983, received his J.D. from Seton Hall three years later and clerked for Judge Roger M. Kahn on the New Jersey Tax Court from 1986 to 1987.
     Prior to joining the Superior Court in 2002, Martinotti worked at New Jersey law firm Beattie Padovano, eventually becoming a partner in 1994.
     While with Beattie Padovano, he also served as a councilmember for the borough of Cliffside Park and took jobs for other towns as a public defender and prosecutor, according to the White House press release.

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