New judge is vital addition to shorthanded Burlco bench

Mark Tarantino was a prosecutor and an Army lawyer.
Mark Tarantino was a prosecutor and an Army lawyer.
Posted: July 10, 2014

After several years as an Army lawyer at Fort Dix and nearly three decades as a municipal prosecutor in Burlington County, Mark Tarantino this week began a new job as a Superior Court judge on the Mount Holly bench.

Tarantino, 57, a Moorestown Republican, was sworn in during a private ceremony last week and began his assignment Monday as a judge presiding over family matters. He was nominated by Gov. Christie and confirmed by the state Senate.

Tarantino's arrival addresses a dire need, according to county Assignment Judge Ronald Bookbinder.

The county's 38,309 civil and criminal case filings, as of May 30, qualify the bench for 20 judges, Bookbinder said. "We are down three [and] anticipate we may lose one of our 17 to a transfer. . . . We are one of the counties in most need of new judges," he said, adding that he hoped more would be appointed.

Among the six South Jersey lawyers who were appointed to judgeships last month, four were assigned to Camden County, and Tarantino was the only one provided to Burlington County. Gerard Breland, another lawyer who lives in Burlington County, was also appointed, but to the Hudson County bench.

"I'm thrilled and honored," Tarantino said. "I am going to make the most of this opportunity."

Before Tarantino began prosecuting drunken driving, simple assault, and other misdemeanors in Municipal Court, he was an Army lawyer who had offered legal counsel to recruits bound for Iraq in 2008 and 2009.

"We helped deploy the troops. . . . We reviewed everyone's legal affairs," he said, explaining one of his roles as judge advocate general officer with the New Jersey Army National Guard.

He also prosecuted traffic and other minor cases on the military base and acted as the administrator of the U.S. Magistrate Court.

"I enjoyed the public service in the National Guard, and it was something I missed," Tarantino said, adding that his work as the magistrate court administrator prepared him for hearing cases in Superior Court.

He also was a municipal prosecutor in 20 communities, including Moorestown, Bordentown Township, and Cinnaminson, and was appointed public defender at other times in 22 communities.

In both capacities, Tarantino said, he "handled thousands and thousands of cases, from traffic cases to shoplifting, to DUIs."

Tarantino earned his law degree from Rutgers-Camden in 1981, after receiving a bachelor's degree from the same school three years earlier.

On weekends, he runs with the Pineland Striders, a group that jogs along the 53-mile Batona Trail in the Pine Barrens.

"The trail is so beautiful and goes mostly through state forest," he said, adding that he runs it in 10-mile stretches. "It's a challenge," he said.

He and his wife, Amy, a lawyer, have been married nearly 31 years. They have two children, Ruthann, who works in postproduction at a TV station in New York, and David, a classical percussionist pursuing his doctorate at Boston University.

Bookbinder said Tarantino "will be a tremendous asset" to the county bench. "He has great knowledge of municipal courts and wonderful courtroom experience. He is smart; he works hard, and will bring a diverse experience to our bench, including civil commitments and landlord-tenant law."

856-779-3224 @JanHefler

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