Gurbir Grewal, an Indian American Sikh attorney, Dec. 12 was announced as the nominee for New Jersey state attorney general by Gov.-elect Phil Murphy.
Murphy, in making the announcement, said that Grewal will lead the fight against the Trump administration on issues such as healthcare, voting rights and the environment, according to a NorthJersey.com report.
The nomination is Murphy's first high-level selection. If confirmed by the state Senate, Grewal would become the first South Asian attorney general in the state and the first Sikh to hold the post in any state, the report said.
“The American dream is alive and well in New Jersey,” Grewal said at a news conference in Trenton, according to the report.
Murphy, a Democrat, at the news conference stressed that he wants his attorney general to work with other attorneys general throughout the country to sue to block policies coming out of Washington, D.C., which is currently run by the Republican Party, the report said.
“In light of all that is being thrown at us by (President Donald Trump), we need an attorney general unafraid to join our fellow states in using the law to protect all New Jersey residents.” Murphy said during the announcement, according to the publication.
“Whether it is seeking to protect our immigrant communities and DREAMers from discrimination, fighting to protect the Affordable Care Act from being undermined, keeping sensitive data away from people bent on suppressing voting rights, standing up for our LGBT community, or for protecting our air and water from a hostile EPA, to name just a few, Gurbir will do just that,” the governor-elect added.
Grewal, a 44-year-old Glen Rock resident and a Democrat, is a former federal prosecutor who has led the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office since Republican Gov. Chris Christie tapped him for the role in January 2016.
He served in an acting capacity until the state Senate confirmed him to a five-year term and he was sworn into office in January of this year.
Grewal has his J.D. degree from the College of William and Mary law school, and his B.S.F.S. from Georgetown University.
The Indian American has received praise for his office’s work in combating the opioid crisis in Bergen County and promoting better relations between police and the people they serve, the report said.
Grewal, who was accompanied during the Dec. 12 announcement by his wife Amrit and their three daughters, has set up numerous initiatives while in the prosecutor post, including implementing a strategy of persuading recently arrested or hospitalized addicts to immediately talk to addiction recovery specialists, which has led to nearly three-quarters of those people entering treatment at some point, the report said.
Additionally, he oversaw a county investigation into an internal memo by former Wyckoff Police Chief Benjamin Fox condoning the use of racial profiling as a police tool.
“I wanted to give back to a country that has given us and other immigrant families like us so much,” he said, the report noted. “And in the process, I wanted to perhaps also show people that while I and others like me may look different or worship differently, that we, too, are committed to this country.”
Grewal went on to say that, as someone who has experienced hate and intolerance first-hand, “I wanted to work to ensure we all live in and ... grow up in a fair and just society.”
Many organizations quickly responded to the announcement by praising the governor-elect's decision of Grewal.
“We congratulate Gurbir Grewal on his historic nomination to serve as attorney general of New Jersey,” said Pankit J. Doshi, president of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association. “An accomplished lawyer and public servant, Mr. Grewal has demonstrated his commitment to the community and the skills needed to lead the state’s law enforcement agency.
"Following the recent xenophobic incidents in New Jersey, his appointment is a reminder that diversity is something we all value," Doshi added. "As a member of the Asian Pacific American Lawyers Association of New Jersey, he serves as a role model to attorneys and law students around the nation.”
Jack Chan, president-elect of APALA-NJ, doubled down on Doshi's comments, saying, "This is truly a historic moment."
"APALA-NJ congratulates prosecutor Grewal on this well-deserved accomplishment, and we applaud Gov.-elect Murphy for making the nomination."
The South Asian Bar Association of North American issued a statement of congratulations to the nominee.
“The decision to appoint a visible minority as the chief law enforcement officer for New Jersey reflects the diversity of the state and of the U.S., and is especially important in a time where minorities and immigrants have often felt targeted by law enforcement,” said SABA president Rishi Bagga in a statement.
“We applaud Governor-elect Murphy in picking a distinguished and qualified member of the South Asian and Sikh American legal community for this pivotal role," Bagga added.
“Gurbir has been an active member and supporter of SABA-NJ for years. We really applaud his accomplishments and are extremely proud to see him be chosen for this honor," SABA New Jersey president Bhaveen Jani said. "It does show Gov.-elect Murphy’s dedication to the South Asian community.”
Murphy’s choice of Grewal was also applauded by officials at nearly every level of government, including Christie and New Jersey's current attorney general, the report said.
"Gurbir's intellect and experience is what attracted me to him and what led me to fight entrenched interests to make him Bergen County prosecutor," Christie said in a statement. "His tenure, almost without exception, has been exemplary. I am confident he has the skills necessary to be an attorney general we can be proud of in New Jersey."
Added current state Attorney General Christopher Porrino in a tweet, “Grewal is the kind of public servant who leaves his ego at the door and does the right thing for the right reasons. He’s smart, trustworthy and tenacious; qualities which will make him an extraordinarily successful AG. Looking forward to a smooth transition.”
Other dignitaries such as state Sens. Vin Gopal, Paul Sarlo and Loretta Weinberg, as well as U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer and Bergen County Police Chiefs Association and Oakland police chief Edward Kasper praised the selection.