Payne's Tolentino Postal Bill Passes Through Congress

Mar 24, 2014 Issues: Local Issues
Payne's Tolentino Postal Bill Passes Through Congress

Jersey City, N.J. – Today, H.R. 1376, a bill introduced by Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10) to designate the postal facility located at 369 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive in Jersey City, New Jersey passed through Congress by voice vote. Watch the speech here.

“Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of my bill, H.R. 1376, to name the postal facility located at 369 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive in Jersey City, New Jersey, after the late Judge Shirley A. Tolentino.

“Shirley Tolentino was born and raised in Jersey City, served as a distinguished jurist in Hudson County for 26 years, and was a trailblazer for women and African Americans as a public servant in New Jersey. She was a product of the local public school system where she was an honor student graduating from Synder High School. She then earned a scholarship to attend the College of St. Elizabeth in Morristown, New Jersey, graduating with a degree in Latin with honors. To put herself through law school, Judge Tolentino worked as a high school Latin and English teacher while attending Seton Hall University School of Law, graduating as the only African American female in the class of 1971.

“After law school, she became a deputy attorney general in the State of New Jersey, where she remained until she rose to the bench in Jersey City in 1976. Judge Tolentino became the second African American woman to be named as Municipal Court Judge in the State of the New Jersey, and the first to be appointed to the Jersey City Municipal Court. In 1980, Judge Tolentino earned her master of laws degree in criminal justice from NYU Graduate School of Law, while continuing to serve in the Municipal Court. In 1981, she continued to blaze a trail for others, becoming the first African American Presiding Judge of the Jersey City Municipal Court.  But her successes didn’t stop there.  In 1984, when she was appointed by Governor Thomas Kean, Judge Tolentino became the first African American woman to ascend to the Superior Court of the State of New Jersey.

“Later, she was appointed to the original Coleman Commission, which would later be called the New Jersey Supreme Court Task Force on Minorities. During her time on the commission, she became Chair of the Sub-Committee on Juvenile Justice and also served as the Supreme Court Chair of the Committee on Criminal Justice and Minority Defendants. With all her professional achievements, she viewed her appointment and time served on the commission as her greatest accomplishment.

“Over the years, Judge Tolentino’s career was highlighted by many firsts and she accomplished much during her years on and off the bench. As a member of the Jersey City Hudson County Urban League, the Hudson County Girl Scouts Board, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Hudson County C.Y.O., Visiting Homemakers Board of Hudson County, and a host of other local organizations, she was an integral part of her community.  Throughout her success, Judge Tolentino always called Jersey City home and actively participated in community service in the city that raised her.

“Judge Shirley Tolentino passed away on October 31, 2010, and is survived by her husband, Dr. Ernesto Tolentino, children, and grandchildren.

“It is not a coincidence that the post office to bear her name would be located on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. There is no better way to acknowledge the exemplary achievements of Judge Tolentino and at the same time provide a permanent monument of possibilities and hope for young women, African Americans, and the citizens of Jersey City. I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this bill to honor her legacy.”