A Republican nominated to the state bench by a Democratic Governor, Judge Robert Kirsch is now poised to be elevated to the federal bench by a Democratic President.
Born in 1966, Robert Andrew Kirsch grew up in South Orange in New Jersey. Kirsch received a Bachelor’s Degree from Emory University in 1988 and a J.D. from Fordham University School of Law in 1991.
After graduating, Kirsch clerked on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida for Judge William Zloch and then spent four years with the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Division. In 1997, Kirsch became a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey. In 2010, Kirsch was appointed to be a state judge in New Jersey by Democratic Governor Jon Corzine at the recommendation of Republican State Senator Tom Kean. Kirsch still serves as a state judge.
History of the Seat
Kirsch, a Republican, was recommended for the federal bench in New Jersey by Senator Robert Menendez. He has been nominated to replace Judge Freda Wolfson, who will take senior status on February 1, 2023.
Kirsch started his legal career as a law clerk to Judge William Zloch. He then spent four years with the Civil Division at DOJ. While there, Kirsch participated in a legal malpractice suit against a federally chartered Savings & Loan. See Resolution Trust Corp. v. Rosenthal, 160 F.R.D. 112 (N.D. Ill. 1995).
Between 1997 and 2010, Kirsch worked as a federal prosecutor in New Jersey. At the office, Kirsch primarily handled white collar cases. Notably, he prosecuted Chip Hoffecker, who was sentenced to 17 years in prison for defrauding investors. See Ted Sherman, Ex-Federal Prosecutor is Sworn in as Union County Superior Court Judge, Apr. 18, 2010, https://www.nj.com/news/2010/04/former_us_attorney_judge_sworn.html.
Outside of the white collar context, Kirsch participated in suits over the detention of individuals at Guantanamo Bay. See Gina Holland, Judge Refuses to Stop Hearings at Guantanamo Bay, Rejects Unfair Claim, A.P., Aug. 3, 2004. He also worked to prosecute the distribution of illegal steriods in New Jersey. See Michael O’Keefe, Huge Roid Raid in N.J. Basement, New York Daily News, Sept. 21, 2007.
Kirsch has served on the Superior Court in Union County since 2010. Among the cases he handled there, Kirsch presided over the juvenile adjudication of Carlton Franklin for the murder committed in 1976, when he was 15. See Kate Zernike, Man, 52, is Convicted as a Juvenile in a 1976 Murder, Creating a Legal Tangle, N.Y. Times, Dec. 22, 2012. Kirsch sentenced Franklin to ten years in prison, which was upheld on appeal. State in Interest of C.F., 132 A.3d 426 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2016).
Kirsch has received bipartisan support throughout his legal career, and this is unlikely to change at this stage. While many progressives may be disappointed with Menendez (and Biden) choosing to appoint a Republican to this seat, it is unlikely to derail Kirsch’s confirmation.