By: Savannah Scarborough, Writer / Follow South Jersey Community Resources Intern
TRENTON, N.J. — On March 15, Governor Phil Murphy announced that he intends to appoint Rachel Wainter Apter to the New Jersey Supreme Court to fill the role of Associate Justice Jaynee LaVecchia, who worked nearly 40 years of public service to the state and will retire on August 31. The formal nomination, subject to advice and consent in the Senate, will occur once the New Jersey State Bar Association’s Judicial and Prosecutorial Appointments Committee approves.
After graduating summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania, Apter earned her law degree from Harvard Law School. Years later, Apter served as Counsel to the Attorney General, advising on civil rights and other immigration matters. Before joining the Counsel, she worked at the American Civil Liberties Union on cases concerning voting rights, reproductive freedom, and the right to be free from discrimination. Also, during that time, she served as Counsel in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.
Currently, Apter serves as Director of the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights. This Division is a state agency that is charged with protecting the civil rights of all New Jerseyans. Furthermore, the Division is responsible for enforcing the state’s Law Against Discrimination and is charged with preventing and eliminating discrimination in New Jersey.
Apter has dedicated her life to protecting others. She has given her all to those who have grave threats to their liberties, such as immigrant communities, LGBTQ+ communities, our Black and Brown communities, and our many and varied communities of faith.
“Rachel is an intellectual powerhouse and one of the country’s most thoughtful and passionate civil rights litigators,” Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said in a press release.
The passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was extremely heartbreaking to the New Jersey Supreme Court. Gov. Murphy and Supreme Court members feel it is necessary to nominate someone in Ginsburg’s high regard in Apter, one of her former clerks who will become the 41st justice to serve on the state’s highest court.
In the wake of Justice Ginsburg’s passing, Gov. Murphy felt that Apter would be the most accommodating fit to continue Ginsburg’s legacy. According to Gov. Murphy, Apter clerked for Justice Ginsburg and followed in her footsteps as a civil rights lawyer to the New Jersey Supreme Court. Furthermore, Apter defended New Jersey DREAMers in federal court, drove social media platforms to confront hate speech, and proposed reforms to prevent sexual harassment.
“Rachel has dedicated her professional life to protecting others from grave threats to their liberties,” Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver said in a press release. “Our Court has stood, time and again, as the last best protector of the rights of residents. This court has stood strong against outside political interference and pressure. Rachel will undoubtedly continue and strengthen this storied tradition.”
Despite the dozens of achievements Apter has obtained, she has also branded her reputation as a litigator and warrior of equal rights long before she joined New Jersey’s administration.
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This article was produced by a Follow South Jersey news intern thanks to a grant provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through the New Jersey Health Initiatives program to create hyper-local news to meet the informational and health needs of the City of Bridgeton, N.J.