Office History

A Rich History of Public Service

Click here for a list of all New Jersey United States Attorneys

The original enactment that formed the various district courts throughout the nation called for the convening of court on the first Tuesday in November, 1789. Twice, however, Judge David Brearly found it necessary to postpone the convening of the first District Court of New Jersey. The first session finally was held on December 22, 1789, at which time three attorneys were sworn in and Richard Stockton, then 25 years old, was commissioned as the first United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey. Because there was no other business before the Court, court was promptly adjourned. Stockton's first appearance on behalf of the United States was at the August term in 1790. One Henry Guest had petitioned the court for relief from the payment of duties claimed by the collector of "the Eastern District of this State" on certain shoes and leather aboard the ship of Captain Edward Yard. Mr. Stockton responded to the order to show cause by saying that so far as the party sought relief from the customs duty on shoes and leather, the judge of the District Court had no jurisdiction. Judge Brearly dismissed the prayer for relief against payment of customs duty for lack of jurisdiction.

Graphic: Richard Stock Nomination Graphic: Richard Stockton Photo
Richard Stockton (1764-1828) by Christian Gullager

Stockton, nicknamed "the Duke," had come from a prominent family in New Jersey. His great-grandfather (also named Richard Stockton) purchased the property that became Morven (later the residence of several New Jersey governors) from William Penn in 1701. His father, perhaps the most famous Richard Stockton, signed the Declaration of Independence a little more than a decade before "the Duke" became the first "attorney of the district." Stockton spent most of his time dealing with cases arising from the maritime trade from nearby ports. These cases involved the collection of customs duties on goods brought through the New Jersey ports from foreign countries. When Stockton left office in 1791, he was widely considered the best attorney in the state of New Jersey. He became United States Senator for New Jersey in 1796, and he was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1813.

Judge Brearly served as the United States District Judge for New Jersey for only about a year. He was succeeded in 1790 by Judge Robert Morris, who occupied the bench until he died in 1815. Much of the latter part of his life Judge Morris was ill, and no business was transacted in the Court. However, in describing the Court of that day, it was said that his absence caused no public disadvantage for there was scarcely any business in the District Court at that time. When the Court did sit, it often did so at Henry Drake's Tavern in Trenton.

Like Stockton, many United States Attorneys held significant posts in government before and after their tenure as United States Attorneys. William Sanford Pennington left the United States Attorney's Office in 1804 to become an Associate Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court, and in 1813 he became the governor of New Jersey. (His son, William Pennington, would later be the governor of New Jersey from 1837 to 1843.) From 1815 until his death in 1826, Pennington served as the United States District Judge for the District of New Jersey. (Until 1905, the District of New Jersey was served by only a single district judge.) Pennington had become well known for his courage during the Revolutionary War, when General Knox once spotted him under enemy fire loading and firing a cannon by himself, a task usually requiring the work of two or three people. The town of Pennington, New Jersey, is named for him.

Frederick Frelinghuysen became United States Attorney in 1801 having already distinguished himself in government service. He had served as a colonel in the Revolutionary War; as a delegate to the Continental Congress; and as a United States Senator from 1793 to 1796. After he left the Office of United States Attorney, Frelinguysen served as a member of the State general assembly. He died just three years later. Strangely, he had predicted the very day of his death, April 13, 1804. A number of Frelinghuysen's descendants served in government as well, including his son Theodore (1787-1862) and his grandson Frederick Theodore Frelinghuysen (1817-1885), both of whom became United States Senators. His great-great-great-grandson, Peter Hood Ballantine Frelinghuysen, Jr., was a member of the House of Representatives from 1953 to 1975, and his great-great-great-great grandson, Rodney Frelinghuysen, was elected to the House of Representatives in 1995.

Joseph McIIvaine took office as the United States Attorney in 1804 and served for almost 20 years. Later, from 1823 until his death in 1826, he served in the United States Senate. McIIvaine's successor, Lucius Q.C. Elmer, had quite a career both before and after serving as United States Attorney from 1824 to 1829. Elmer had been a prosecuting attorney for the State and a member of the New Jersey Assembly, becoming Speaker of the House in 1823. He was elected to the United States Congress in 1843. He was not reelected, but he served as New Jersey's Attorney General from 1850 to 1852 and served as an Associate Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court from 1852 until his retirement in 1869.

The ninth United States Attorney, Garret Dorset Wall, had served in the War of 1812 and then become Quartermaster General for the State of New Jersey. He carried the title of "General" all of his life. As a member of the New Jersey Legislature, in 1829 he was selected by his peers to be governor. He became the only man appointed governor who declined to serve. Instead, he served as United States Attorney from 1829 to 1835. Then, from 1835 to 1841, he served as a United States Senator. Shortly after his death in 1850, Monmouth County's Wall Township was named after him.

On March 27, 1861, Anthony Q. Keasbey began the longest tenure of any United States Attorney in the District; he served continuously for 25 years, until 1886. The Keasbey section of Woodbridge Township, New Jersey, was named for Keasbey and his brothers.

David O. Watkins, United States Attorney from 1900 to 1903, had earlier in his career been elected mayor of the City of Woodbury. At the time, he was only 24 years of age. In what may be another first, Watkins served as governor before becoming United States Attorney. In 1898, a set of odd circumstances brought Watkins to the governorship when both the elected governor and the President of the New Jersey Senate resigned while Watkins was Speaker of the House for the New Jersey Assembly. By succession, Watkins became the acting governor two years before becoming United States Attorney.

Other unusual events have occurred in the history of the United States Attorney's Office. The first United States Attorney, Richard Stockton (1789-1791), and the third, Lucius Horatio Stockton (1798-1801), were brothers. In more recent times, another pair of brothers have held the office, Raymond Del Tufo, Jr. (1954) and Robert J. Del Tufo (1977-1980).

In 1994, Faith S. Hochberg became the first woman to hold the Office of United States Attorney in New Jersey.  She left the office in 1999 to become one of the 17 United States district judges in New Jersey.  (The bench—and the U.S. Attorney's Office—had grown since 1905!) Hochberg was one of many United States Attorneys who also served as federal judges.  For example, Frederick B. Lacey and Herbert J. Stern served as district judges; Michael Chertoff served as a member of the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit until being appointed Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security; and Samuel Alito, Jr. served as a member of the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit for 15 years and then, beginning in January 2006, as the 110th United States Supreme Court Justice. The current governor of the state of New Jersey, Christopher J. Christie, is also a former United States Attorney for the District.

A number of Assistant U.S. Attorneys also went on to become members of the federal court, including Third Circuit Judges Maryanne Trump Barry, Michael A. Chagares, Joseph A. Greenaway, Jr., and Patty Shwartz; District Judges Jerome B. Simandle (the current Chief District Judge), Katharine S. Hayden, William J. Martini, Stanley R. Chesler, Renée M. Bumb, Noel L. Hillman, and Kevin McNulty; former, now-retiredChiefDistrict Judges John W. Bissell and Garrett E. Brown; andMagistrate Judges Michael A. Hammer and James B. Clark, III. Stuart J. Rabner, the current Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court, and Richard J. Hughes, the only person in the history of New Jersey to serve as both governor and Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court, were also former Assistant U.S. Attorneys in the District of New Jersey.

New Jersey United States Attorneys

United States Attorney Tenure Appointment President When Appointed
Richard Stockton
1789-1791 Presidential George Washington
(1789-1797)
Abraham Ogden 1791-1798 Presidential George Washington
(1789-1797)
Lucius Horatio Stockton 1798-1801 Presidential John Adams
(1797-1801)
Frederick Frelinghuysen 1801 Presidential John Adams
(1797-1801)
George C. Maxwell 1801 Presidential
(recess appointment)
John Adams
(1797-1801)
George C. Maxwell 1802-1803 Presidential Thomas Jefferson
(1801-1809)
William S. Pennington 1803-1804 Presidential Thomas Jefferson
(1801-1809)
Joseph McIlvaine 1804-1824 Presidential Thomas Jefferson
(1801-1809)
Lucius Q.C. Elmer 1824-1829 Presidential James Monroe
(1817-1825)
Garret D. Wall 1829-1830 Presidential (recess appointment) Andrew Jackson
(1829-1837)
Garret D. Wall 1830-1835 Presidential Andrew Jackson
(1829-1837)
James S. Green 1835 Presidential (recess appointment) Andrew Jackson
(1829-1837)
James S. Green 1836-1850 Presidential Andrew Jackson
(1829-1837)
William Halstead 1850-1853 Presidential Millard Fillmore
(1850-1853)
Garret S. Cannon 1853-1854 Presidential (recess appointment) Franklin Pierce
(1853-1857)
Garret S. Cannon 1854 - 1861 Presidential James Buchanan
(1857-1861)
Anthony Q. Keasbey 1861-1886 Presidential Abraham Lincoln
(1861-1865)
Job H. Lippincott 1886-1887 Presidential Grover Cleveland
(1885-1889)
Samuel F. Bigelow 1887-1888 Presidential Grover Cleveland
(1885-1889)
George S. Duryee 1888-1890 Presidential Grover Cleveland
(1885-1889)
Henry S. White 1890-1894 Presidential Benjamin Harrison
(1889-1893)
John W. Beekman 1894-1895 Presidential (recess appointment) Grover Cleveland
(1893-1897)
John W. Beekman 1895-1896 Presidential Grover Cleveland
(1893-1897)
J. Kearney Rice 1896-1900 Presidential Grover Cleveland
(1893-1897)
David O. Watkins 1900-1903 Presidential William McKinley
(1897-1901)
Cortlander Parker, Jr. 1903 Court Theodore Roosevelt
(1901-1909)
John B. Vreeland 1903 Court Theodore Roosevelt
(1901-1909)
John B. Vreeland 1903-1913 Presidential Theodore Roosevelt
(1901-1909)
J. Warren Davis 1913-1916 Presidential Woodrow Wilson
(1913-1921)
Charles F. Lynch 1916-1919 Presidential Woodrow Wilson
(1913-1921)
Joseph L. Bodine 1919-1920 Presidential Woodrow Wilson
(1913-1921)
Elmer H. Geran 1920-1922 Presidential Woodrow Wilson
(1913-1921)
Walter G. Winne 1922-1928 Presidential Warren Harding
(1921-1923)
Phillip Forman 1928 Presidential (recess appointment) Calvin Coolidge
(1923-1929)
Phillip Forman 1928-1932 Presidential Calvin Coolidge
(1923-1929)
Harlan Besson 1932-1935 Presidential Herbert Hoover
(1929-1933)
John J. Quinn 1935-1936 Presidential (recess appointment) Franklin D. Roosevelt
(1933-1945)
John J. Quinn 1936-1940 Presidential Franklin D. Roosevelt
(1933-1945)
William F. Smith 1940-1941 Court Franklin D. Roosevelt
(1933-1945)
Charles M. Phillips 1941-1943 Presidential Franklin D. Roosevelt
(1933-1945)
Thorn Lord 1943-1945 Court Franklin D. Roosevelt
(1933-1945)
Edgar H. Rossbach 1945 Court Franklin D. Roosevelt
(1933-1945)
Edgar H. Rossbach 1945-1948 Presidential Franklin D. Roosevelt
(1933-1945)
Isaiah Matlack 1948 Court Harry S. Truman
(1945-1953)
Alfred E. Modarelli 1948-1949 Presidential (recess appointment) Harry S. Truman
(1945-1953)
Alfred E. Modarelli 1949-1951 Presidential Harry S. Truman
(1945-1953)
Grover C. Richman, Jr. 1951 Court Harry S. Truman
(1945-1953)
Grover C. Richman, Jr. 1951-1953 Presidential Harry S. Truman
(1945-1953)
William F. Tompkins 1953-1954 Presidential Harry S. Truman
(1945-1953)
Raymond Del Tufo, Jr. 1954-1956 Presidential Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961)
Herman Scott 1956 Court Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961)
Chester A. Weidenburner 1956-1957 Presidential (recess appointment) Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961)
Chester A. Weidenburner 1956-1961 Presidential Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961)
David M. Satz, Jr. 1961-1969 Presidential John F. Kennedy
(1961-1963)
Donald Horowitz 1969 Court Richard M. Nixon
(1969-1974)
Frederick B. Lacey 1969-1971 Presidential Richard M. Nixon
(1969-1974)
Herbert J. Stern 1971 Court Richard M. Nixon
(1969-1974)
Herbert J. Stern 1971-1974 Presidential Richard M. Nixon
(1969-1974)
Jonathan Goldstein 1974 Court Gerald R. Ford
(1974-1977)
Jonathan Goldstein 1974-1977 Presidential Gerald R. Ford
(1974-1977)
Robert J. Del Tufo 1977-1981 Presidential Jimmy Carter
(1977-1981)
William W. Robertson 1981 Court Ronald W. Reagan
(1981-1989)
W. Hunt Dumont 1981-1985 Presidential Ronald W. Reagan
(1981-1989)
Thomas W. Greelish 1985-1987 Court Ronald W. Reagan
(1981-1989)
Samuel Alito, Jr. 1987 Attorney General Ronald W. Reagan
(1981-1989)
Samuel Alito, Jr. 1987-1990 Presidential Ronald W. Reagan
(1981-1989)
Michael Chertoff 1990 Attorney General George Bush
(1989-1993)
Michael Chertoff 1990-1991 Court George Bush
(1989-1993)
Michael Chertoff 1991-1994 Presidential George Bush
(1989-1993)
Faith S. Hochberg 1994 Attorney General William J. Clinton
(1993-2001)
Faith S. Hochberg 1994-1999 Presidential William J. Clinton
(1993-2001)
Robert J. Cleary 1999-2000 Court William J. Clinton
(1993-2001)
Robert J. Cleary 2000-2002 Attorney General William J. Clinton
(1993-2001)
Christopher J. Christie 2002-2008 Presidential George W. Bush
(2001-2009)
Ralph J. Marra, Jr. 2008-2009 Vacancy Reform Act George W. Bush
(2001-2009)
Paul J. Fishman 2009-Present Presidential Barack Obama 
(2009-Present)

Related information can be found on the web site of the Historical Society of the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, www.njd.uscourts.gov, and the web site of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, http://pacer.njd.uscourts.gov.

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