As survivors of the Holocaust, Stuart Rabner’s parents witnessed the ultimate absence of justice. More than 60 years later, their son, the state’s top law enforcement official, is in a position to set policy as the next chief justice of New Jersey’s Supreme Court.
Gov. Jon Corzine nominated state Attorney General Rabner to be the next chief justice on Monday. If confirmed, the 46-year-old Rabner could serve until the mandatory retirement age of 70, which would allow him to set the court’s agenda for more than ‘0 years, ruling on constitutional issues and appeal cases from lower courts.
Gov. Jon Corzine, left, nominated state Attorney General Stuart Rabner to be the next chief justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court on Monday.
"Stuart Rabner is one of the top legal minds in New Jersey and one of the finest public servants our state has to offer," Corzine said at a press conference announcing the nomination. "I have no doubt that he will uphold the New Jersey Supreme Court’s tradition of excellence and demonstrate all of the wisdom, integrity, and fairness that the people of New Jersey have come to expect from him."
To be confirmed in his new role, Rabner needs the votes of ‘1 state senators. He would become the eighth chief justice since New Jersey adopted its constitution in 1947.
Rabner served in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark from 1986 through ‘005, when Corzine selected him as his chief counsel and later nominated him for attorney general in August ‘006. Following Sept. 11, ‘001, Rabner supervised the U.S. Attorney’s Office investigation in New Jersey, working at a joint command post with federal, state, and local enforcement officials. Earlier in his career, Rabner was a lead attorney for the organized crime drug enforcement task force, prosecuting money laundering and drug trafficking cases.
Corzine and Rabner first met, however, working in a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving two years ago in Newark.
"I am humbled by Gov. Corzine’s nomination," Rabner said on Monday. "If confirmed by the Senate, I pledge to do everything I can to maintain the Supreme Court’s tradition of excellence, which has earned the court deep respect throughout the nation."
Rabner, who grew up in Passaic, maintains ties to the Jewish community as the chairman of the Holocaust Resource Center of the Jewish Federation of Greater Clifton-Passaic. The center has an extensive collection of Holocaust research materials, which are said to serve as a resource even for the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington.
Rabner’s involvement with the center has left an impression on the Jewish community, which is grateful for his continued involvement, said Mark Levenson, president of the federation.
"He’s an absolute mensch," he said. "He never tries to take any credit or glory, he’s just an understated modest human being. The whole community of Passaic-Clifton is just absolutely delighted" with his nomination.
Levenson said that Rabner has been a driving force at the Holocaust Resource Center and as a past board member of the federation. Rabner became chairman of the center three years ago after the death of chair and founder Joe Bukiet. And it was Bukiet, Levenson remembered, who had been responsible for introducing Rabner to the woman who would become his wife, Debbie.
Even with his responsibilities as attorney general, Rabner has helped organize the center’s annual Holocaust commemoration since its inception 18 years ago. "Stuart’s been involved since the beginning," Levenson said. This year’s commemoration drew more than ’50 people, despite threats of cancellation because of heavy rains.
Even with the added responsibilities of the N.J. Supreme Court, Levenson believes Rabner will continue his work with the commemoration.
"It’s a very important part of his fabric and part of him," Levenson said. "I hope he’d be able to participate in our commemoration going forward. I know it means a lot to him and his family."
Rabner attended Princeton University, followed by Harvard Law. He lives in Caldwell with his wife and three children.
Added Levenson, "We’re very proud of our hometown boy."