July 12, 2023

Mayor Bhalla makes historic judicial appointments

Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla today announced Benjamin Choi will be the City's next Chief Municipal Judge and Scott Pennington will be the City's new Municipal Court Judge starting this September. The two appointments mark the first time in the City's history that an Asian American and African American individual held either position.  

“I am proud to announce these two groundbreaking appointments to our municipal court, marking an important milestone in our commitment to diversity and inclusivity,” said Mayor Bhalla. “These historic appointments not only reflect our City's dedication to fostering a judiciary that reflects our diverse community, but also stand as a testament to the talents and accomplishments of these exceptional individuals. Ben and Scott’s impeccable qualifications, unique perspectives and invaluable experiences will undoubtedly enhance our court system, promoting fairness and justice for every member of our community and ensuring equal representation for all."

"I am deeply honored and humbled to be appointed as Hoboken's Chief Municipal Court Judge," said Judge Choi. "I look forward to continuing to serve the residents of the City and the public at large with respect, fairness and justice."

“With great honor and a profound sense of purpose, I am privileged to become the City's first African American judge this September,” said Pennington. “I look forward to serving the City of Hoboken and its residents and I will remain dedicated to ensuring that every individual who enters our courtroom receives impartial treatment under the law."

Choi fills the seat of Judge Cataldo Fazio, who served as the City's Chief Judge since 2019.  

"I am extraordinarily grateful to Chief Judge Fazio for his decades of distinguished service on the bench in Hoboken. I extend my thanks to Chief Judge Fazio, and wish him well in his next steps," said Mayor Bhalla

Choi has been employed by the City since 2009 as a municipal prosecutor and then as a municipal court judge following his appointment in 2019. He previously served as the Alcohol Beverage and Control Board's prosecutor and later as the Board attorney.  

He has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Rutgers University, a Master of Science in Public Policy from the Eagleton Institute of Politics, Rutgers Graduate School-New Brunswick, and a Juris Doctor (JD) from Rutgers Law School-Newark.

Choi is a U.S. Army Veteran, having served as a Legal Specialist in the Army JAG Corp., as a Stinger Platoon Leader in the Air Defense Artillery, and as Battalion Intelligence Officer in the Infantry. He is an Airborne paratrooper and earned the rank of Captain.

Pennington maintains a private practice and is a Partner at Bennett Pennington LLC.

Pennington has provided legal services to several public entities, including the cities of Newark (as well as the Newark Public Schools); East Orange; Bloomfield; Jersey City; and The Englewood Public Schools. Scott has served as a Municipal Public Defender in Orange, Irvington, and Roselle Municipal Courts as part of his Criminal Defense practice.

During his career in the public sector, Pennington has conducted hundreds of investigations of harassment and discrimination and has provided harassment and discrimination training to thousands of individuals in various public school districts and government entities throughout New Jersey.  

He has served on the New Jersey Supreme Court's Committee on Municipal Court Practice as well as the local Attorney Ethics Committee.

Pennington is a veteran of the United States Air Force, and he received his Bachelor of Science from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, his Master of Arts in Liberal Studies at Rutgers University Graduate School - Newark, and his Juris Doctorate from Rutgers University School of Law - Newark.  

The Hoboken City Council is scheduled to vote on the Mayor's appointments during the July 12 council meeting at 7 p.m.

Benjamin Choi
Scott Pennington