Gov. Murphy taps long-time Metuchen municipal court judge to lead state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control

Rebecca Nowalski

METUCHEN — In the coming weeks, Metuchen officials will begin the process of selecting a new municipal court judge, according to Mayor Jonathan Busch.

On Nov. 9, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and Gov. Phil Murphy announced in a press release they will tap long-time Municipal Court Judge James Graziano to lead the state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), which provides oversight of manufacturing, distribution and sale of alcoholic beverages throughout the state.

Graziano will begin serving as acting director of the ABC on Nov. 26. Murphy will formally nominate Graziano to the position, which is subject to the advice and consent of the State Senate.

He is a founding partner of Graziano, Piasecki and Whitelaw in Green Brook, where he specializes in civil litigation involving personal injury and employment claims. He also serves as a municipal court judge in Metuchen and formerly served as the attorney for the Metuchen Parking Authority.

“James is a seasoned civil litigator and experienced municipal judge whose legal background makes him an excellent candidate to lead the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control,” Grewal said in the release. “The ABC interacts extensively with businesses and municipalities across New Jersey in regulating and enforcing the state’s liquor laws, and James’ practice of law both on and off the bench make him uniquely qualified to carry out those duties.”

After graduating with honors from Rutgers University, Cook College, with a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies, Graziano attended Rutgers University School of Law in Camden where he served as a notes and comments editor for the Rutgers Camden Law Journal.

After earning his law degree, Graziano clerked for the Honorable John C. Demos, A.J.S.C. (Associate Justice of the Supreme Court) in Middlesex County before beginning his legal practice as an associate with the firm of Psak and Parker in Middlesex.

Graziano and his wife have lived in Metuchen for 35 years and has served the community through a variety of organizations including as the borough’s emergency management coordinator, chief of the Metuchen Fire Department, and general counsel to the parking authority, Busch said.

“We know Judge Graziano will continue to make the borough proud in his new endeavor,” he said.

As ABC Director, Graziano will oversee compliance among the more than 9,000 licensees who manufacture, distribute, sell and serve alcoholic beverages in the state. He will also oversee the investigations of violations of the ABC law, which are conducted by the ABC’s Investigations Bureau.

“It is an honor to be appointed to lead the division. Alcohol regulation has important public safety and economic implications,” Graziano said. “I look forward to working with the attorney general, the members of the division and industry representatives to advance the legislative objectives of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act.”

Graziano will succeed David P. Rible, who has served as the director of the ABC since July 2017. He is leaving the Department of Law and Public Safety to pursue new opportunities.

“I want to thank Director Rible for his leadership and public service. As director, as an assemblyman, and as a police officer, Dave has dedicated his career to faithfully serving the people of this state, and to that end, we owe him our thanks,” Grewal said.

Graziano is not the only Metuchenite Murphy has nominated to join his administration. Former Mayor Peter Cammarano accepted Murphy’s nomination to become his chief of staff in December 2017.