The new assignment judge for Atlantic and Cape May counties will be the state's first Hispanic in the position.

Superior Court Judge Julio Mendez -- a former city solicitor for Vineland -- will take over the assignment duties when Superior Court Judge Valerie Armstrong retires Nov. 1, Chief Justice Stuart Rabner announced today.

Mendez has been on the bench for nine years, and was first assigned to the Cumberland County criminal division. He also served in the family division and in 2005 was assigned as the division's presiding judge for the Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem vicinage.

He is a graduate of Glassboro State College, now Rowan University, where he earned his bachelor's degree in 1978, and Rutgers School of Law - Camden, where he earned his law degree in 1981.

"Judge Mendez has proven himself a leader among his peers and a jurist of the highest caliber," Rabner said in a statement. "The judges, staff, attorneys and litigants in Atlantic and Cape May counties will be well served by his experience and dedication.

"As Judge Mendez steps in to succeed Judge Armstrong, we thank her for her extraordinary service and wish her well in her retirement," Rabner added.

"I am grateful to be selected by Chief Justice Rabner to lead the outstanding judges and staff in the Atlantic and Cape May courthouses," Mendez said in released statement. "When I left my native Cuba as a teenager, it would have been impossible to imagine the honor of serving New Jersey as a judge in this role. And while succeeding Judge Armstrong is certainly a

challenge, it is one I promise to face with my new colleagues in a spirit of fairness and integrity and with hard work."

Prior to his appointment to the bench, Mendez was in private practice for 20 years. He then served as a staff attorney for the Cumberland County Board of Social Services, as Vineland City solicitor and as a trustee for Cumberland County College. His professional associations have included the New Jersey State Bar Association, the Cumberland County Bar Association and the Hispanic Bar Association.