Courts in N.J. county to be led by Black woman judge, a first for state’s largest vicinage

Posted Dec 17, 2020

A Superior Court judge who once presided over the criminal division in Hudson County has been chosen to lead the courts in the Essex Vicinage.

New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner on Wednesday tapped Superior Court Judge Sheila A. Venable to be Essex vicinage’s next assignment judge, effective Feb. 1, 2021. She is the first Black assignment judge in the Essex vicinage, the largest of New Jersey’s 15 court vicinages with 811 employees.

Venable will succeed Superior Court Judge Sallyanne Floria, who is retiring after 22 years on the bench and about five years as assignment judge.

“I would like to thank Chief Justice Rabner for his confidence in my ability to serve as the assignment judge in Essex County,” Venable said in a statement. “Judge Floria has set a strong example to follow. I am humbled and honored to have been chosen and I feel privileged to be a part of this independent judiciary.”

An assignment judge oversees budgets, personnel needs and facilities. They also manage administrative duties for the county surrogate and deputy clerk of the Superior Court. Each assignment judge reports directly to the chief justice, who appoints presiding judges in consultation with the head of a vicinage.

Venable is currently a drug court judge in Hudson County. She previously served in the family division and was the presiding judge of the criminal division in the Hudson Vicinage from 2008 to 2018. As a criminal judge, she sentenced former Paterson Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres to five years.

She was appointed to the bench in 2005 by former Gov. Richard Codey and was reappointed by Gov. Chris Christie. She received tenure in 2011.

“Judge Venable’s distinguished career has been marked by excellence, strong leadership, and empathy – qualities that will serve the State’s largest vicinage and the public well,” said Rabner, the chief justice. “Essex County, and the Judiciary as a whole, are fortunate to have such a gifted jurist continue to maintain the highest standards Judge Floria exemplified.”

Venable’s legal career has roots in Jersey City. There, she worked as a public defender in the 1980s and became a municipal assistant prosecutor, chief municipal prosecutor and then served as a municipal court judge from 1993 to 2005.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in political science with an emphasis in public administration at California State University Northridge. She received her law degree at the University of Santa Clara.

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published this page in News and Politics 2020-12-18 02:52:44 -0800