Gov. Chris Chistie's of Councilman Mark Ciarrocca for state Superior Court judge sailed successfully through the state Senate Judiciary Committee in less than 15 minutes Wednesday morning.
"I'm proud to support his candidacy," Judiciary Committee Chairman Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden) said before the committee voted unanimously in favor of Ciarrocca, a second term Republican representing the third ward.
There were no other comments from the committee on Ciarrocca's nomination, and no committee members asked him any questions.
Ciarrocca addressed the committee briefly before the vote.
"I've been a trial lawyer in Union County for 25 years," he said. "If confirmed, it would be my honor to spend the second half of my legal career on the court."
He reacted jubilantly to the committee's vote in his favor, exchanging hugs with supporters who had accompanied him to the hearing in the Statehouse Annex in Trenton.
Ciarrocca's nomination now heads to the full Senate, which has scheduled a vote for Wednesday afternoon.
Ciarrocca was nominated by the governor last week to the judgeship, one of four Union County judgeships Christie filled last week. Besides Ciarrocca, the judiciary committee has approved the appointments of Superior Court Judge Fredric Kessler of Cranford and assistant county prosecutor Regina Caulfield of Berkeley Heights. Kenilworth Mayor Kathi Fiamingo's judicial nomination has not been heard by the committee.
Ciacrrocca serves as the town's acting mayor. He was first elected to the Council in 2003 and was re-elected four years later. His present term expires December 31. He chairs the Council's Finance Policy Committee and is member of its Public Safety, Transportation and Parking Committee.
He also is Council's liaison to Westfield's Recreation Commission and Board of Education.
Ciarrocca announced that he was dropping his bid for a third term in a race versus Democrat Matt Sontz and independent Greg Kasko. Town Republicans have not indicated who will replace Ciarrocca on the ballot.
If confirmed by the full Senate, Ciarrocca will likely resign his Council seat over the summer. Town Republicans would then have 15 days to present three nominees to the Republican dominated Council to fill Ciarrocca's seat for the remainder of the term. Assemblyman Jon Bramnick, the town's Republican chairman, said Ciarrocca's successor on the ballot is likely to receive the Council seat for the remainder of the term.
A lifelong Westfield resident, he's been involved with a variety of community organizations, including Contact We Care, of which he is a former president. Ciarrocca is a graduate of Westfield High School and has a bachelor's degree from the Virginia Military Institute and a law degree from Washington and Lee University. He and his wife, Janet, a charter school principal in Jersey City, have two sons, Robbie, a student at Wake Forest, and Jack, a student at Edison Intermediate School.
If confirmed by the Senate, Ciarrocca would serve as a seven-year term on the bench, hearing either civil, criminal or family law cases in Elizabeth. In 2018, Ciarrocca would be eligible to be reappointed by the then governor to serve a tenured term on the bench. A tenured term would mean Ciarrocca could continue serving as a judge until his 70th birthday.