Christie names Lautenberg successor: NJ Attorney General Jeff Chiesa

NJ-AG-Jeffrey-S-Chiesa-1Gov. Chris Christie has just announced who will succeed the late Senator Frank Lautenberg: NJ Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa.

Chiesa will serve until after the election to fill the seat, currently set by the Christie timetable as Wednesday, October 16, after a primary currently set for a date in August. Chiesa has pledged not to seek to retain the office in the upcoming Senate election.

In appointing Chiesa, one day after Frank Lautenberg’s funeral and as his body lies in repose in the well of the Senate, Christie ignores the chance to do something more noble and more in keeping with the sensibilities of his constituents, choosing instead to pick someone high on the Christie food chain. Before Chiesa was New Jersey’s Attorney General, he was Chief Counsel to Christie. He met Christie in the law firm that once bore Christie advisor Bill Palatucci’s name (Dughi, Hewit & Palatucci, now known as Dughi & Hewit). Chiesa followed Christie to the US Attorney’s office when Christie had that title; the Christie administration has several former employees from there in high positions. Chiesa headed up Christie’s transition team before the governor was sworn in in January of 2010.

Last year Bill Orr covered the still-ongoing public safety story of New Jersey’s privatized halfway house system, most of which were run by Community Education Centers (CEC). That’s the company run (till recently) by Bill Palatucci , former law colleague of both Chiesa and Christie and still in Christie’s inner orbit .(Palatucci extricated himself from the company even as the sister of a woman murdered by an escaped inmate at one of his facilities  filed suit against CEC). There were serious questions about how the law firm all three worked for had set up Education and Health Centers of America as a “non-profit” allowed to contract with the NJ Department of Corrections and then pass the revenue on to CEC.

That same month last year the_promised_land wrote in Blue Jersey about a manuever by AG Chiesa that looked suspiciously political in the 2011 legal challenge to Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera’s election. His noted Chiesa may have been serving his political patron, Christie, in a way entirely inappropriate for the chief lawyer for the state’s interests – and not it’s governor’s political interests. He wrote Chiesa’s maneuvers looked like an effort to try to take out a Democratic Assemblywomen by manipulating legal arguments.

You’ll want to see the other side; what the Chris Christie administration wants you to know about Chiesa. So, below the fold, Christie’s release to press in its entirety.

Here in its entirety, is the release just sent to press following the governor’s announcement, entitled:

Meet Jeff Chiesa

Governor Christie’s U.S. Senate Appointee Has Spent More Than A Decade Fighting For And Defending The People Of New Jersey.

Jeff Chiesa has served as the Attorney General of New Jersey since January 2012. He received bipartisan support from leaders on both sides of the aisle, and was confirmed by a unanimous vote in the State Senate.

  • Attacking The Problem Of Human Trafficking: Chiesa’s office issued a statewide Law Enforcement Directive designed to increase human trafficking investigations and prosecutions, and formed a new Human Trafficking Unit within the Division of Criminal Justice.
  • Protecting Children: Chiesa’s office launched a multi-pronged attack on child exploitation crimes, including statewide stings that have resulted in the arrest and indictment of many child pornography offenders. The AG’s office has also worked closely with the Legislature on proposed reforms aimed at toughening penalties for child pornography offenses
  • Targeting Gun Violence: As Attorney General, Chiesa has aggressively targeted gun violence in New Jersey through strategic investigations focused on seizing illegal weapons in violent areas, disrupting the supply-chains of those weapons, and aggressively prosecuting criminals involved in the illegal sale and possession of weapons.
  • Chiesa’s office implemented the most sweeping gun buyback program in state history which to date has collected more than 10,000 guns off the street, including 1,200 illegal guns.
  • Combating Gang Violence: Under Chiesa, the Attorney General’s office has opened 120 new “gangs and organized crime” cases in 2012, filing charges against 285 alleged gang members, drug dealers and other dangerous offenders.
  • Cracking Down On Public Corruption: Chiesa’s office filed 40 new public corruption cases in 2012, charging current and former public officials at every level with crimes related to the exploitation of their positions for personal gain.
  • Promoting Diversity: Chiesa has personally led a continuing effort to recruit and train a diverse State Police organization. Through this effort, the 152nd State Police class is the most diverse in history.
  • Star-Ledger: “New N.J. State Police Class Most Racially Diverse In State History, Attorney General Says”

    Responding To Hurricane Sandy: Chiesa helped lead the State’s Superstorm Sandy response involving handling logistics, rescuing victims from floodwaters, and protecting residents from price-gougers and scam artists. To date, 27 lawsuits have been filed against businesses for alleged fraud.

    Chiesa served for two years as Chief Counsel to Governor Christie.

  • During Chiesa’s time as Chief Counsel, he helped to guide New Jersey through an extraordinarily difficult budget period, including closing a combined $13.2 billion shortfall in the first six months of the new administration.
  • Chiesa was intimately involved in crafting the negotiations to pass landmark reforms such as:

    –  Historic, bipartisan pension and benefits reform that will save New Jersey taxpayers $120 billion over the next 30 years.

    –  A 2 percent property tax cap and interest arbitration reform to rein in the cost of government.

    –  Major education reforms such as the Inter-District School Choice Program and the Urban Hope Act.

    –  $2.35 billion in tax relief for New Jersey’s job creators.

    Chiesa served as Executive Director of Governor Christie’s Transition Team during which he oversaw a comprehensive review of New Jersey government operations.

  • Under Chiesa’s guidance, the Christie transition team developed 19 individual reports reviewing the operations of every department, agency and authority in state government.
  • Chiesa’s team developed assessments and recommendations to improve, shrink and, in some cases, eliminate wasteful or inefficient government operations.
  • Chiesa spent seven years in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey, ultimately serving as the Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney.
  • Chiesa was involved in all aspects of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including the management of the Criminal, Civil, Appeals and Special Prosecutions Divisions.
  • He led the U.S. Attorney’s Office prosecution of several high-profile public corruption cases such as former state Senate President John Lynch.
  • He oversaw the investigation and prosecution of criminal cases involving bank robbery, child pornography, human trafficking and identity theft.
  • He also served as Counsel to the U.S. Attorney and as Chief of the Public Protection Unit.

    Chiesa has over 10 years of experience in private practice.

  • Prior to joining the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Chiesa was a partner at the law firm of Dughi and Hewit, where he litigated civil matters, including the representation of medical professionals and hospitals.
  • Before joining Governor Christie’s transition team, Chiesa was a partner at the firm of Wolf & Samson.

    Chiesa graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1987, and earned his Juris Doctorate from The Catholic University of America in 1990.

  • Chiesa is a native of Bound Brook, New Jersey and currently lives in Branchburg with his wife, Jenny, and their two children, Al (14) and Hannah (12).
  • He has served as a Eucharistic minister and taught Sunday School at his church, St Joseph Parish in Raritan Borough, and has coached soccer and basketball for more than eight years in Branchburg.
  • Comments (8)

    1. 12mileseastofTrenton

      I guess David Samson didn’t want it.

    2. vmars

      Chiesa’s been a pretty good AG, so as a placeholder he seems like a solid choice.

      Could have gone with a woman, an African American, an Asian-American, a Native American, or a Democrat-American.  But for a white guy, not bad.

    3. Rosi Efthim (Post author)

      NJ Sierra’s director asks a provocative question: Is  Christie Now Both Governor and Senator?

      The NJ Sierra Club believes the appointment of Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa to the U.S. Senate by Gov. Christie does a disservice to the people of NJ. Jeffrey Chiesa is a Christie loyalist with no elected or legislative experience. The concern we have is that this seat has been held by such notable people and strong advocates for New Jersey like Sen. Lautenberg, Clifford Chase, and Bill Bradley with Jeff Chiesa not measuring up. Instead of appointing Mr. Chiesa the Governor should have appointed someone with stature like former Governor Tom Kean Sr. to fill this vacant seat. The reason we need someone of a stature like Tom Kean is so that NJ could be properly represented and be able to get all the resources we need to rebuild after Sandy. We need someone who will represent NJ in an effective manner. Instead, Mr. Chiesa is another former Assistant US Attorney and will be a rubber stamp for Gov. Christie’s agenda. With this appointment Governor Christie will be both the Governor and a Senator.

    4. Joebluejersey11

      Its a complete fraud that the actual attorney who clearly committed 110% selective prosecution for candidate Christie has now been rewarded with a US Senate seat.

      Chrisite knows his ENTIRE career is vulnerable about the outright fraud and selective prosecution he committed in his bizarre zeal for higher office. Cheisa LOST numerous cases against DEMOCRATIC politicans he filed indictments against. With NJs local papers wrapped up in their own shennigans with Republican polticians, its only a matter of time when the National press finds out what a complete fruad NJ now has a Senator. Cheisa past should ban him from even stepping on the Senate floor.  


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