Solomon: A Republican ex-legislator with allies even among Democrats

From left, N.J. Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) with Judge Lee Solomon of Camden County and state Chief Justice Stuart Rabner.
From left, N.J. Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) with Judge Lee Solomon of Camden County and state Chief Justice Stuart Rabner. (MEL EVANS / AP)
Posted: May 23, 2014

In nominating Camden County Assignment Judge Lee Solomon to the state Supreme Court, Gov. Christie turned to a longtime political ally who has served in all three branches of state government.

Solomon, 59, of Haddonfield, has served twice as a Superior Court judge, as president of the Board of Public Utilities, and as a five-year member of the General Assembly.

A Republican who has allies even among Democrats, Solomon seems certain to be approved for the seven-year term in light of the endorsement by Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester).

Appointed by Gov. Jim Florio to the General Assembly in 1991 to fill a vacancy, Solomon earned a reputation over the next five years as a law-and-order legislator who "took a hard line against criminals," especially sex offenders, according to the conservative blog Save Jersey.

He stirred controversy, however, when he introduced a bill that sought to bar news organizations from revealing the names of sexual-assault victims, and the bill was defeated.

In 1995, he lost his seat to current Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D., Camden).

Christie's relationship with Solomon began in 1992, when they campaigned for President George H.W. Bush's reelection.

Ten years later, Christie - then U.S. attorney for New Jersey - appointed Solomon first deputy attorney for Southern New Jersey, where he headed a combined staff of 47 assistant attorneys in the Camden and Trenton offices.

Acquaintances describe him as intelligent, tactful though strong-willed, with a "subtle" sense of humor.

"I have very mixed feelings about this appointment," Gary Boguski, president of the Camden County Bar Association, said Tuesday. "It's a great move for the state of New Jersey, but I'm sorry to lose him as county assignment judge."

Boguski called Solomon a wonderful administrator and great judge who treats litigants with respect and was easy to work with.

A 1975 graduate of Muhlenberg College with degrees in English and natural sciences, Solomon earned his law degree from the Widener School of Law. He and his wife, Dianne, have three adult children.

He began his political career as a member of the Haddon Heights Borough Council from 1986 to 1994, then served two years on Camden County's freeholder board.

In 1992, he tried to unseat U.S. Rep. Robert E. Andrews, whom he sought to portray as the slave of special interests. Despite his partisanship, he appears to have stayed on good terms with local Democrats.

"Lee Solomon is a terrific, smart, hardworking public servant," Camden County Freeholder Jeff Nash said Tuesday.

"I worked extremely well with him when he was in the Assembly, and we maintained a relationship in his days as prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney's Office, and again when he was president of the BPU.

"I can't think of a more worthy candidate to serve on the court," said Nash, "and this is from a longtime Camden County Democrat."

State Sen. Donald Norcross (D., Camden) described Solomon as possessing "all the skills, experience, and abilities needed to serve with distinction" on the state's high court.

After Solomon left the Assembly, Gov. Christie Whitman appointed him Camden County prosecutor, where he directed the 2001 prosecution of Cherry Hill Rabbi Fred Neulander, charged with hiring a hit man to kill his wife. The trial ended with a hung jury, but Neulander was convicted at a retrial in Monmouth County.

In 2005, acting Gov. Richard Codey nominated Solomon to Camden County Superior Court, where he served first as a Family Court judge and later as a judge in the Criminal Division.

Solomon left the bench in February 2010, when Christie named him president of the BPU. He served 20 months before returning to Camden County Superior Court as its assignment judge.

In January, the governor named the judge's wife, a paralegal, president of the Board of Public Utilities.


doreilly@phillynews.com

856-779-3841 doreillyinq

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