Christie Losing Another Chief Counsel

Gov. Chris Christie. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Gov. Chris Christie has nominated his chief counsel, Gregory Acquaviva, to be a judge on the state Superior Court.

Acquaviva has been Christie’s top lawyer for three months, replacing Thomas Scrivo, who left to start a new law firm with state Sen. Kevin O’Toole (R-Essex) earlier this year.

Christie announced Acquaviva’s nomination Thursday evening, along with eight other judicial nominees.

Like Christie, Acquaviva is a graduate of Seton Hall University Law School. The governor has a tendency to appoint and nominate Seton Hall graduates to judgeships and prominent positions in state government.

Acquaviva is a former law clerk to President Trump’s sister, Judge Maryanne Trump Barry of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit. He also clerked for Chief Justice James Zazzali of the New Jersey Supreme Court, a Democratic appointee.

At the start of the Christie administration, Acquaviva spent nearly five years working as an assistant counsel to Christie and as a lawyer and then chief of staff to Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno. He left in August 2015 to become a lobbyist for UnitedHealth Group before returning to Christie’s office in March.

A Seton Hall alumni web page lists him as a resident of Bloomfield in Essex County. But according to Christie’s nomination announcement, he is being submitted as a resident of Neptune in Monmouth County. (It’s not uncommon for nominees to move to fill vacancies in other counties or to get around the “senatorial courtesy” tradition that allows state senators to delay or effectively veto nominees in their home counties.)

There was no word on who would replace Acquaviva as Christie’s top lawyer in the waning months of his term. He is currently the fifth person to hold the position, after Jeff Chiesa, Charles McKenna, Chris Porrino and Scrivo.

The governor has said he doesn’t file nominations for judgeships until he gets assurances from Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) that the Senate will confirm his picks.

Christie Losing Another Chief Counsel