Haitian-American lawyer makes history in NJ Supreme Court

Fabiana Pierre-Louis, Esq.
Fabiana Pierre-Louis, Esq.

A Brooklyn-born Haitian American lawyer has created history by becoming the first Black woman to serve on New Jersey’s Supreme Court after the full Senate voted unanimously to confirm her on Thursday.

The Democratic-led New Jersey Senate Judiciary Committee had also voted unanimously on Monday to advance Fabiana Pierre-Louis’s nomination.

“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,” said New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, who had nominated Pierre-Louis, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, on June 5, in a statement.

“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,” added the governor soon after the Senate vote.

Pierre-Louis, 39 — a former prosecutor, who moved, with her parents, from Brownsville, Brooklyn, when she was 8, to Irvington, NJ — succeeds Justice Walter Timpone, who reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70 in November, on the New Jersey Supreme Court.

With her nomination, Pierre-Louis becomes the youngest person to serve as Justice on New Jersey’s highest court. She could sit on the court for up to 30 years before reaching the mandatory retirement age.

“I know how important it is for young people to see people who look like them, or come from similar neighborhoods as them, or similar backgrounds, to see those people in positions of leadership,” Pierre-Louis said.

At the time of her nomination, she described the historic moment as the “honor of a lifetime.”

Currently a partner in the New Jersey law firm of Montgomery, McCracken, Walker & Rhoads, LLP, Pierre-Louis is just over 20 years younger than the next-youngest member of the New Jersey Supreme Court, Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, who is 60.

“The fact that I sit here today with the opportunity to sit on the court is beyond words,” Pierre-Louis said. “I understand the importance and magnitude of my nomination to the highest court in the state.”

At Montgomery McCracken’s White Collar and Government Investigations practice group, Pierre-Louis said she focuses her practice on complex commercial litigation, white collar crime and government investigations.

Prior to her return to Montgomery McCracken, Pierre-Louis said she served for nine years in the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey as an Assistant US Attorney and the Attorney-in-Charge of the Camden Branch Office, the first woman of color to hold that position in the history of the district.

As Attorney-in-Charge, Pierre-Louis said she was responsible for supervising all aspects of criminal matters handled by the Camden Office, including criminal trials, investigations and prosecutions of large-scale mail and wire fraud offenses, healthcare and government fraud matters, and narcotics, firearms and violent crime offenses.

She also investigated and prosecuted her own individual caseload focusing on public corruption matters, federal narcotics offenses, export control violations, defense contracting fraud, national security matters and child exploitation offenses.

Prior to serving as the Attorney-in-Charge of the Camden, NJ Office, Pierre-Louis said she also served as the Attorney-in-Charge of the Trenton Branch Office from November 2016 to December 2018, and was the first woman of color to hold that position as well.

In addition to working in both Trenton, NJ and Camden, Pierre-Louis worked in the Newark, New Jersey Office in the General Crimes Unit and the Organized Crime and Gang Unit.

She holds a Bachelor’s degree in political science from Rutgers University-New Brunswick, NJ and juris doctorate (law degree) from Rutgers Law School, Camden.

Immediately following law school, Pierre-Louis said served as a law clerk for the Hon. John E. Wallace, Jr. of the Supreme Court of New Jersey (Ret.).

“Her credentials speak for themselves,” Matt Platkin, chief counsel to Governor Murphy, who is considered the architect of Pierre-Louis’ nomination.

“She clerked for Justice Wallace, she handled difficult cases at the US Attorney’s Office, she’s a partner at Montgomery McCracken. She is clearly a talented attorney.”

Pierre-Louis lauded her Haitian-born parents, who, she said, made sacrifices so she could attend law school.

She said her father was a taxi driver New York City, who saved up to purchase a medallion; while her mother worked for 20 years at the then St. Vincent’s Hospital in Manhattan.

“Their work ethic is something I’ve always looked up to,” Pierre-Louis said.

“They worked extremely hard coming to a country, where they didn’t speak the language, didn’t know many people and really established themselves.”