NJ confirms nation's first Sikh as attorney general: Bergen County's Gurbir Grewal
Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir Grewal became the nation's first Sikh state attorney general and the first of Gov. Phil Murphy's Cabinet officers to take office, after winning Senate confirmation.
Grewal, 44, has run the 265-employee Prosecutor's Office since January 2016, working to combat opioid abuse with strategies such as pairing recently hospitalized or arrested suspects with addiction counselors. He also focused on improving relationships between police and the community.
Hours after Murphy was sworn in, the state Senate voted 29-0 to confirm Grewal to the Attorney General's Office, where he'll enforce environmental and consumer protection laws, represent the state in legal disputes, and lead any of Murphy's legal efforts to challenge policies from the Trump administration.
In his inaugural speech, Murphy signaled a strategy to challenge Trump over offshore oil and gas drilling, protections for residents who were brought to the country illegally as children, and efforts to dismantle Obamacare.
Grewal, a Democrat who was nominated to his Bergen County post by former Gov. Chris Christie, said after his confirmation hearing that it would be premature to discuss any potential cases or legal strategies.
"I'm extremely humbled, and I'm looking forward to getting started," he said. "My first order of business is to introduce myself and get up to speed."
In a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee that lasted more than an hour, Grewal fielded questions from Sen. Gerald Cardinale, R-Demarest, about how he would deal with conflicts between state and federal laws on issues such as marijuana. Murphy has said he plans to legalize the drug in New Jersey despite a federal ban.
Grewal said he would alert the governor and Legislature to any "potential pitfalls" in their strategy but ultimately would represent the state's position.
"If the Legislature passes a law and the governor signs it, it's my job to make sure it's done in the most efficient manner possible," he said.
Cardinale, who said Murphy had hinted at a willingness to break federal laws in his inaugural speech, voted to confirm Grewal.
"You're an independent thinker," Cardinale said. "You're not going to be bullied into doing something that you don't believe in under your legal training."
Murphy has noted the historic nature of Grewal's appointment as the first state attorney general of Sikh heritage.