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South Jersey Justice

by Erica Bauwens

Meet New Jersey’s new Acting Attorney General: Marlton’s own John Jay Hoffman. Find out what he’s doing to change the state and his favorite South Jersey escapes.

This summer saw a handful of unexpected changes in New Jersey state administration. The death of 89-year-old Senator Frank Lautenberg on June 3 left an unexpected opening in Washington D.C. that desperately needed to be filled. Then-Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa stepped up to take Lautenberg’s place until a special October election.

That left Chiesa’s former post in the hands of Marlton’s John Jay Hoffman, a Jersey-born prosecutions lawyer and executive assistant attorney general. Hoffman got his start in Washington, D.C., prosecuting as a Trial Attorney for the Civil Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. But time and opportunity brought him back home to New Jersey, where he specialized in economic and white collar criminal prosecutions, tackling local, national and international corruption cases in Trenton and settling in South Jersey with his wife and 3-year-old son.

We spoke with the Hoffman as he shared his thoughts on state politics, his prosecuting passions, and his favorite spots to eat in South Jersey.

MEET THE NEW ATTORNEY GENERAL: I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still pinch myself every morning. It’s a little cliché, but it’s incredibly humbling and such an honor. It’s exciting and fascinating to see what the attorney general’s office does. For someone who comes from my background it’s one of the biggest honors that I can accomplish.

MOVING FROM D.C. TO N.J.: The short answer is that I feel in love with a Jersey Girl. I was raised in Edison, and when we were deciding where we could live, the chance to come back to Jersey was something I couldn’t turn down. The state climbs into your soul in a strange kind of way and you can’t ever leave it, no matter how far you go.

FOLLOWING A BLUEPRINT: [Senator Chiesa’s] initiatives were all of our initiatives, we all worked very closely together, so I feel like I’m already incredibly invested in them. The Senator provided tremendous leadership, so I plan to pursue those issues with the same passion and commitment that he has. As time evolves there are some things I want to sink into. I want to continue my own personal focus on environmental litigation. And then things will evolve here that will require immediate attention. We’re turning our attention to the 2014 Superbowl, for the safety and security perspective, and focusing on what something of that mass brings to light. We had a symposium on human trafficking the other day. We want to lay the ground work and make sure that we can remediate problems like that so that we have the tools for when the time comes.

PICKING UP THE PIECES: I very much enjoyed, probably since I was very young, putting together big puzzles, and a lot of those cases are very similar to those big puzzles. I liked to put these cases together and then simplify it to teach it to a jury, it’s just fun to me. I also was always particularly offended by individuals who had gotten a lot out of society and had been given every advantage, and then use their experience and knowledge negatively. I thought those people had to pay the social cost of the ills that they created.

NEVER A DULL DAY: As a federal prosecutor one of my last cases was the most interesting. It was an international debt bank fraud case. We chased people all around the country and into Canada. We were able to prosecute all 17 defendants and were able to get all of the money, about $60 to $80 million, back to the victims. To say it felt good doesn’t do it justice.

SETTING GOALS: I do want to make sure that I spend a lot of time focusing on our environmental enforcement efforts, make sure we are holding businesses accountable. On the criminal side we are going to focus on human trafficking, child pornography, political corruption. I want to focus on gun buybacks and the corruption that resulted from Superstorm Sandy. I want to make sure that people can’t take advantage of the disadvantaged. Now we’ve turned our attention on home improvement contractors to make sure that they aren’t taking advantage of those who are desperate to get their lives back in orders.

LONGEVITY: I am going to work incredibly hard every day on this job and I’m sure that if I give this job my best effort that my career will work itself out. It’s hard to look beyond my desk let alone look towards tomorrow, I want to make sure I’m doing the very best I can every day.

HOME SWEET HOME: My wife and I are fortunate enough to live right off a golf course, and there’s nothing that makes me happier than taking my 3-year-old out to teach him how to hit a golf ball. We love the area: I think it’s under rated, especially when you look at the restaurants around South Jersey, like La Locanda [in Voorhees] and Fuji [in Haddonfield]. I used to live in Japan for three years and I love Fuji, it’s actually pretty authentic compared to what I had in Japan. Besides that we like to go to the farmers markets, and we love take our little boy over to the Flying W in Medford to eat breakfast and watch the planes take off.

Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 5 (August, 2013).
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