Jeffrey S. Chiesa, a longtime Gov. Christie colleague and confidante, eased through the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning on his way to being confirmed as the state's top law enforcement officer.
Chiesa (KEE-ay-sa), who was unanimously approved by the committee for confirmation as Attorney General, will face a full Senate vote on Monday. Last month Christie appointed Chiesa as acting attorney general to replace Paula Dow, who is headed to a judgeship.
The senators at today's hearing asked a few mild questions but mostly praised Chiesa for being fair, intellectual and apolitical. Republican Sen. Kevin O'Toole said: "No one hates you, which is shocking."
Democratic Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D., Union) said: "People have always said how lucky Jeff was to meet Gov. Christie early on in his career...but I've always been of the opinion that the governor was lucky to meet Jeff, to have an individual of his intellect and compassion, but as well as his devotion to his principles."
Chiesa faced zero questions about the significant spike in crime in Camden in the wake of police layoffs. Dow sent state troopers into the city last month to stem the crime wave, but those troopers have since left.
Chiesa got his start early. An intern in the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office who became a law clerk in the Somerset County courts after law school, Chiesa was in private practice alongside Christie at Dughi, Hewit & Palatucci. He became a federal prosecutor under then-U.S. Attorney Christie, making his name handling public corruption, including the prosecution of former Senate President John Lynch.
In the governor's office, Chiesa served as Christie's chief counsel, giving legal backing to Christie's legislative pursuits and presiding as a member of the gubernatorial inner circle.
As Attorney General, Chiesa will oversee the state police, county prosecutors, Atlantic City gaming regulators, juvenile justice system and other elements of the state's law enforcement operatus.
"We cannot tolerate our cities being infiltrated by gangs and drug dealers, creating an environment in which hope is replaced by despair," Chiesa said at today's hearing.
"I will do my best to allocate our law enforcement resources so we are best positioned to serve the public."