Hudson may get female prosecutor

Esther Suarez, nominated by Christie, would be first woman and Hispanic in post

Superior Court Judge Esther Suarez was nominated as the new Hudson County prosecutor on Wednesday by Gov. Christopher Christie. If approved by the state Senate, she will become the first Hispanic and female prosecutor in Hudson County history and will serve a five year term in office.
Hudson County has been without a prosecutor since early June, 2012, when two-term prosecutor Ed DeFazio was appointed to a judgeship.
“I am proud to support Esther Suarez’s nomination to become the next Hudson County Prosecutor because she is not only eminently qualified, but also because her confirmation will be a historic moment, as she will become both the first woman and the first person of Hispanic heritage to serve in the position,” said North Bergen Mayor and State Sen. Nicholas Sacco (D-32nd Dist.) “Esther is a Hudson County native and a Superior Court Judge with an impeccable record and unimpeachable integrity. She will bring a strong background of legal experience to the office and will ably represent the diversity that makes Hudson County great.”

Rumor confirmed

The appointment has been rumored for months as part of a compromise agreement among the local state senators.
Gaetano Gregory has served as acting prosecutor since 2012. But earlier this year, the Hudson County Board of Freeholders asked Christie to make an appointment. Christie has blamed the three Hudson County state senators –Sacco, Brian Stack (D-33rd Dist.) and Sandra Cunningham (D-31st Dist.) – for the delay.
Three candidates were apparently being considered: Acting Prosecutor Gregory, Union City Attorney Julio C. Morejon, and Suarez.

“She will be the first Hispanic and first woman prosecutor, and I think she is a good choice.” – Junior Maldonado
Freeholder Chairman Junior Maldonado said he believed Morejon and Suarez were both qualified, and that a Hispanic prosecutor would be appropriate since more than 40 percent of the population of Hudson County is Hispanic.
“While she still has to be approved by the state Senator, I think she is extremely qualified for the job,” Maldonado said. “She is a friend and Julio is a friend. Either one would be good. But it this will allow Hudson County get a leader at the top of the prosecutor’s office and will put the focus back on the office and day to day operations. While the office has functioned, the future has been unclear.”
Maldonado said he believed Suarez’s appointment will be confirmed by the senate because she will have the support of the county’s three state senators.
“She will be the first Hispanic and first woman prosecutor, and I think she is a good choice,” he said.
Suarez did not respond to numerous requests for comment on her nomination.

A compromise candidate

The county prosecutor is a constitutional officer, nominated and appointed by the governor with the consent of the state Senate. This means that while the governor has the authority to make the appointment, senators in the district can block a nomination using what is called “senatorial courtesy.”
Cunningham and Sacco appeared to have no issues with Morejon, but Stack apparently did not want him.
While the prosecutor’s office investigates most serious crimes committed in the county, including murders, it has also frequently been called on to investigate local corruption and election fraud cases. This raises concerns about any candidate with strong ties to political figures in Hudson County.
A number of very powerful statewide Latino organizations lobbied hard to get Morejon appointed.
Suarez, who serves in Passaic County as a Superior Court judge, is seen as a compromise candidate. She was appointed to the court in 2010 by Gov. Jon Corzine, just before he left office.
Suarez was born and raised in Bayonne. She has a number of family members living and doing in business in Bayonne. After graduating from high school, she went on to college at Rutgers University where she earned an undergraduate degree from Douglas College. She later earned a Juris Doctor degree in 1997.
Suarez worked as corporation counsel in Hoboken from 2001 to 2003, the director of the Law Department County Counsel in Bergen County, a county adjuster, and general counsel of the Union City Parking Authority. She is a former associate with Scarinci & Hollenbeck. Scarinci & Hollenbeck’s clientele is made up mostly of municipalities and county governments. While at the firm, she concentrated on labor and municipal law and mostly worked in Union City.
Suarez first burst onto the Hoboken scene in September of 2000 when she was the lead attorney for a very publicized lawsuit dealing with employee longevity payments. Suarez was not the city’s attorney at the time, and was hired to represent a local taxpayer. The case resulted in city employees having to return well over a $100,000 in longevity payments, which went directly back into the city’s coffers. Some of those who had to return money were the city’s former corporation counsel, business administrator, and a former mayor.
Her former boss, Attorney Donald Scarinci, sang her praises as an extremely competent attorney.
“She will make an outstanding prosecutor,” he said.

Al Sullivan may be reached at

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