Several area residents were approved Monday by the Senate Judiciary Committee for judgeships and positions on state board and commissions.
Among them were Alisa Cooper and Damon Tyner, Democratic Sen. Jim Whelan’s two unsuccessful Assembly running mates from last year.
Final confirmation from the full Senate is expected Thursday.
Approved for Superior Court judicial posts were Michael Blee and Noah Bronkesh, of Linwood, and Cristen P. D’Arrigo, of Hopewell Township. Linda M. Kassekert, of Pennsauken, Camden County, and Tyner, of Egg Harbor Township, were cleared for Administrative Law Judgeships.
Superior Court and Administrative Law judges are paid $165,000. Superior Court handles civil, criminal and family matters where state laws are at issue, while Administrative Law typically handles public employees and disputes with state agencies and regulations.
Linwood residents Cooper and Matthew P. Levinson were also cleared for seats on the three-member Casino Control Commission, which handles licensing in New Jersey’s casino gambling industry. Seats there pay $125,000, while the chair receives $141,000. Levinson would replace Kassekert, whose term ends at the end of June, while Cooper would replace Edward J. Fanelle, who is leaving the board.
Levinson, a Linwood city councilman and son of Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson, said his experience in the casino industry would allow him to understand the issues that come before the board.
Cooper is a music teacher and former Atlantic County freeholder. She said she “welcome(d) this opportunity and (was) prepared to hit the ground running.”
The committee approved Levinson, while Cooper was “approved without recommendation” after committee member Sen. Gerald Cardinale, R-Bergen, Passaic, said he was handed last-minute documents related to Cooper allegedly paying property taxes late and missing meetings of the state Council on the Arts. Committee members said they would review the documents and discuss her appointment on the Senate floor Thursday.
Cardinale said the documents were given to him by Todd Riffle, the chief of staff for Assemblymen Chris Brown and John Amodeo, both R-Atlantic, who beat Cooper in the November election. Riffle referred questions to Amodeo, who said he did not see the documents but described them as “more information on her, about the Arts Council and the property-tax issue.”
Cooper, surprised, said whatever issues arose were because of shoulder and knee surgery that caused her to miss meetings.
The judicial nominees were approved quickly. Blee is the solicitor for Absecon, Galloway Township and Somers Point, as well as the Planning Board solicitor for Somers Point and the judge of the combined Northfield and Linwood municipal court, as well as the brother of former Republican Assemblyman Frank Blee.
Bronkesh told the committee he predominately handles civil matters and land use issues and has written about eminent domain for publication.
D’Arrigo is the municipal prosecutor for Bridgeton as well as Fairfield and Downe townships. Asked why he wanted to be a judge, he said, “The judiciary is the aspiration of every lawyer in terms of practicing law and understanding law.”
Kassekert has served as chair of the Casino Control Commission for nine years. In her interview, she said her experience in administrative law came as an assistant county counsel in the 1990s as well as the fact that the commission sits as hearing officers.
She said she would work to decide cases quickly.
“You have plaintiffs out there who are waiting for redress, obviously, so you want to get them out there as quickly as possible,” she said.
Tyner is an attorney and has served as solicitor for the Pleasantville Board of Education. He, too, committed to speedy decisions, telling the committee, “I’ve often been disturbed about the timeliness or lack of timeliness in making these decisions.” Tyner unsuccessfully ran with Whelan for the Assembly in both 2005 and 2011.
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