Christopher S. Porrino was nominated to serve as Attorney General of New Jersey on June 16, 2016, and began serving in an acting capacity on June 21, 2016. On August 1, 2016, he was unanimously confirmed by the New Jersey State Senate, and was sworn in as New Jersey's 60th Attorney General on August 2, 2016. Prior to his nomination, Porrino practiced law as a civil and criminal trial attorney, co-chaired the litigation department of a national law firm, and held several high ranking positions in state government. As Attorney General and head of the Department of Law and Public Safety, Porrino led a number of significant initiatives, several of which were nationwide firsts.
Opioid Crisis. Porrino made combating the opioid epidemic a priority of his tenure as Attorney General, using the department’s broad civil and criminal powers to battle the crisis on all fronts. Under his leadership, the department created and successfully enacted what were then the strictest rules in the country aimed at curtailing the over-prescription of highly addictive pain medications, and proposed regulations to prevent prescribing physicians from being influenced by gifts and other rewards from pharmaceutical companies. He aggressively targeted “pill mills” and professionals engaged in indiscriminate prescribing, resulting in more civil and criminal charges filed against medical professionals during his term than in any comparable period in the history of the department. He also oversaw the significant expansion of New Jersey’s Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP), including the implementation of mandatory PMP look-ups by prescribers, and the provision of interconnectivity with PMPs from numerous other states. On the litigation front, Porrino’s office filed complaints against Insys Therapeutics, Inc., as well as the founder of the company, for consumer fraud and false claims related to Insys’ powerful opioid-fentanyl drug known as Subsys. The State also sued Purdue Pharma under Porrino’s leadership, alleging the company boosted profits by deceptively marketing highly addictive pain medications.
Criminal Justice (i.e., Bail) Reform. During his tenure, Porrino oversaw successful implementation of bail reform in New Jersey, perhaps the most significant reform in the history of New Jersey’s criminal justice system. Under bail reform, cash bail was largely eliminated. Using a validated risk assessment tool, dangerous and high-risk defendants may now be held in custody and can no longer “buy” their way out of jail pending trial. Conversely, those charged with less serious offenses are no longer detained in custody pending trial because their economic circumstances do not permit them to post cash bail.
Violent Crime Reduction. As Attorney General, Porrino targeted violent crime in New Jersey, including gun violence. The department utilized recent changes to New Jersey’s bail system to seek detention for most gun offenses, added new witness protection guidelines to be followed by county prosecutors, and secured collaboration with federal partners in order to obtain the longest sentences possible for violent gun offenders.
Most recently, Porrino oversaw the most successful statewide gun buyback in state history, taking almost 5,000 guns out of circulation over a single weekend through simultaneous buybacks in three cities. In addition, he laid the groundwork for a multi-agency effort to address critical public safety issues in Trenton, New Jersey’s capitol city. The effort’s keynote initiatives include demolition of abandoned structures and the installation of surveillance cameras at strategic locations in the city.
Corruption. Porrino made fighting public corruption a focus during his tenure. To help identify potential cases of corruption, the office launched an Anti-Corruption Whistleblower Program that encouraged eligible individuals to self-report their involvement in criminal activity, and offered a reward of up to $25,000 for tips from the public that lead to a corruption-related criminal conviction. In addition to many other corruption prosecutions, the office indicted and convicted Paterson Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres and three Paterson city employees on corruption charges. Torres, mayor of New Jersey’s third largest city, was sentenced to five years in prison for using on-duty city employees to assist with a family business. As part of his sentencing, he is permanently barred from holding public office.
Elder Abuse. With elder abuse cases on the rise, the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office became the country’s first to loan hidden cameras to citizens suspecting elder abuse and neglect. The “Safe Care Cam Program” gives participants the opportunity to covertly observe the care being given to their loved ones, thereby providing a means to determine if neglect or abuse are taking place.
Child Protection. Announcing early in his term that child protection would be a priority under his leadership, Porrino advanced several important child protection measures. In 2016, he drafted and then shepherded legislation that significantly strengthened New Jersey’s child protection statutes, increasing penalties for those engaged in the possession and distribution of child pornography, and criminalizing “child erotica” for the first time in New Jersey. The department also aggressively investigated and prosecuted persons who endangered children through the distribution and manufacturing of child pornography, and through online trafficking of children. During Porrino’s tenure, the department announced two major child protection operations: “Operation Statewide,” a statewide sweep that resulted in the arrest of 40 men on child pornography charges, and “Operation Safety Net,” which employed the only dually-trained electronics and patrol canine in the world – as well as a state-of-the- art mobile forensics lab -- to net a total of 79 internet and social media child predators and child pornography offenders. The sweep included 10 “hands-on” child predators, consistent with Porrino’s focus on identifying and arresting individuals who had access to children and sought out children online. Porrino’s focus on child protection armed the department with cutting-edge investigative tools to identify those who would seek to harm children online, as well as stronger statutes under which to prosecute these child predators.
Distracted Driving. With traffic deaths along New Jersey’s roads rising, Porrino spearheaded a distracted driving campaign to encourage the public to report violations through the State’s #77 hotline. The #77 program was expanded in April 2017 to address a burgeoning number of distracted drivers. The new initiative opened up #77 to callers reporting drivers using cell phones, or otherwise driving distracted. The New Jersey State Police send warning letters to drivers who are reported.
The letters inform motorists that their vehicles have been spotted being driven dangerously or by a distracted driver, and warn of the penalties if ticketed by police. During the first few months of the new initiative, more than 2,000 calls were tracked.
Civil Rights and Diversity. With hate crimes and bias incidents on the rise, Porrino and the department aggressively prosecuted civil rights violations and acts of discrimination. Cases included an international hotel chain accused of allowing unequal pay for women, an employer who fired a woman for taking maternity leave, entities that placed discriminatory housing ads on Craigslist, and a landlord who refused to rent to Muslims. These efforts dovetailed with the department’s commitment to continuing education for law enforcement on cultural awareness and implicit bias. With more than 20 percent of bias and hate crimes in New Jersey being committed by young people, Porrino’s office also developed anti-bias training for school students. In another first, Porrino created and filled the position of Chief Diversity Officer to oversee and promote diversity in the department.
Police/Community Relations. Working to improve trust between police and the communities they serve, Porrino created the first ever Community Policing Award Program to encourage community policing efforts and share best practices. Porrino also founded implemented the first statewide Community Policing Grant Program, named in honor of fallen Summit Police Officer Matthew Tarentino. In the fall of 2016, the department created and mandated the first-ever statewide continuing education curriculum to train police on de-escalation, cultural awareness, and implicit bias. In the fall of 2017, the department launched an educational “Safe Stop” campaign focused on helping communities understand their rights and the law when interacting with law enforcement. The initiative, which specifically aims to reduce tension during traffic stops, includes endorsement videos from NBA basketball great Shaquille O’Neal and former New York Giants linebacker and NFL Pro Bowl selectee Jessie Armstead.
Juvenile Justice Reform. New Jersey serves as the national model for statewide implementation of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI), which has resulted in drastic population reductions at juvenile correctional facilities throughout the state. Delegations from across the country have traveled to New Jersey to learn how it has reduced the state’s detention population by 60 percent. Continuing these reforms under Porrino’s leadership, the JJC underwent a process to examine its facilities, incorporating the latest research in adolescent brain development and proven rehabilitative efforts (such as the broad implementation of trauma-informed care). The department also reduced the use of room restriction or isolation, and promoted family engagement while enhancing and expanding community-based services. These efforts culminated in the planned closure of a Civil War era youth prison known as Jamesburg, a reform considered to be one of the most significant in the history of New Jersey’s juvenile justice system.
Litigation. Under Porrino, the Division of Law (DOL) obtained more than $289 million on behalf of the State in calendar year 2017 through settlements, judgments and other litigation efforts. The dollar amount obtained by DOL represented an increase of approximately $100 million over the amount obtained the prior year. Monies obtained on behalf of the State included settlements and judgments resulting from environmental litigation, taxation matters, and legal action related to consumer, securities and other fraud, as well as other types of affirmative litigation and debt recovery actions. Litigation-related payouts by the State in 2017 totaled approximately $70.7 million, a reduction of approximately $17 million compared to the prior year.
Public Communication. At Porrino’s direction, the department began sharing information and providing other public updates through social media, such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for the first time in its history. These efforts increased transparency into the operations of the department and have provided real-time information sharing and feedback for and from members of the public.
From January 2014 through July 2015, Porrino served as Chief Counsel to Governor Christie. On his first day as Chief Counsel, the matter known as “Bridgegate” broke in the news media. As Chief Counsel, Porrino navigated the Governor’s Office through that crisis and the myriad legal issues that followed. In that role, he also had broad responsibility overseeing appointments, legislative matters, and all state authorities. He worked closely with the Governor and members of the Legislature in a bi-partisan effort to secure the passage of numerous pieces of critical legislation, including the Criminal Justice Reform Act that focused on bail reform.
Before serving as Chief Counsel to the Governor, Porrino served as Director of the Division of Law in the Attorney General’s Office. As Director of the Division of Law from February 2012 to January 2014, Porrino oversaw a team of 800 state employees, 500 of whom were lawyers. Under his leadership, DOL achieved important outcomes in historic litigation, including the landmark Harvey Cedars “dunes” case decided in 2013, which Porrino argued before the New Jersey Supreme Court. The Harvey Cedars decision paved the way for State-sponsored shore protection and dune construction projects that followed.
Prior to his government service, Porrino was a partner and co-chair of Lowenstein Sandler’s national litigation department, where he focused on criminal and civil trial practice. During his tenure at Lowenstein Sandler, Porrino represented clients in a wide array of matters involving securities, banking, insurance, tax, antitrust, real estate, and the environment, among others. He began his legal career as a law clerk to then-Magistrate Judge Freda L. Wolfson, U.S. District Judge for the District of New Jersey.
As Attorney General, Porrino was recognized by various organizations for his leadership. He received the Ner Tamid, Eternal Light Award from the Chabad House – Lubavitch, 2016; the Achievement Award from the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) for “Bridging the Gap between Communities and Police,” 2017; and the Public Servant Award from Seton Hall University School of Law, 2017. Porrino makes every effort to mentor new attorneys, encouraging them to build their reputations as leaders, to be “doers” in their communities, and to persevere when times get tough.
A resident of Union County, Porrino graduated from Lehigh University and received his law degree from Seton Hall University School of Law. He is admitted to the bars of the State of New Jersey and the State of New York, and is admitted to practice in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, and the U.S. Court of Appeals, Third Circuit.