Esther Salas (born December 29, 1968) is a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey sitting in Newark, New Jersey. She previously served as a United States Magistrate Judge of the same court since 2006. Salas was the first Hispanic woman to serve as a United States Magistrate Judge in the District of New Jersey, and also the first to serve as a United States District Judge in the District of New Jersey.
Early life and education
Salas is from Monterey Park, California, and was the daughter of Cuban and Mexican immigrants. Her father is Jewish and her mother is Catholic. At the age of five, she, her mother, Aurelia Salas, along with her siblings, moved to Union City, New Jersey. Though she lost contact with her father when she moved from the West Coast, she would later reconnect with him during the course of the background check she underwent upon being appointed a federal judge. Growing up indigent, Salas recalls having to translate for her mother at the welfare office, and later helping friends with various problems facing their lives, an activity that led to her pursuit of a career focusing on human services.
Salas attended Emerson High School, where her extracurricular activities included cheerleading. After graduating from high school in 1987, she attended Rutgers University, where she lived on campus and was active in clubs and activities. Salas graduated from Rutgers in 1991 with her Bachelor of Arts, and in 1994 from Rutgers University School of Law in Newark with a Juris Doctor. She credits her success during her education and during her later professional life to the Minority Student Program.
Following law school graduation, Salas served as a law clerk to Eugene J. Codey Jr., of the Superior Court of New Jersey. From 1995 to 1997, Salas worked for Garces & Grabler, P.C., where she practiced criminal matters in superior and municipal courts. Between 1997 and 2006, she served as an Assistant Federal Public Defender for the District of New Jersey, representing indigent defendants in federal matters. Salas served as president of both the Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey and the Hispanic Bar Foundation of New Jersey. She has also been a member of the Governor's Hispanic Advisory Committee for Policy Development, the Supreme Court Committee on Minority Concerns, and the Supreme Court Committee on Women in the Courts.
In 2006, Salas was selected from a group of 99 applicants as U.S. Magistrate Judge for the District of New Jersey, becoming the first Latina in that position, in which she served for five years. On August 31, 2010, Senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez announced they would recommend to President Barack Obama that Salas be nominated to the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey as a U.S. District Court judge. Obama nominated her on December 1, 2010, to a seat vacated by the retiring Katharine Sweeney Hayden. On June 14, 2011, the Senate confirmed Salas, making her the first Latina on the District Court of New Jersey.
In 2013, Salas presided over a notable public corruption case.
Salas was the judge responsible for the trial of Real Housewives of New Jersey star Teresa Giudice and her husband Giuseppe "Joe" Giudice. Both were sentenced for bank fraud on October 2, 2014.
Salas is the judge presiding over the class-action lawsuit against Deutsche Bank (Karimi v. Deutsche Bank Aktiengesellschaft et al.), which alleges that Deutsche Bank had poor financial reporting practices and made misleading statements to securities investors, resulting from Deutsche Bank's desire to obscure its anti-money laundering deficiencies and its poor monitoring of high-risk customers such as Jeffrey Epstein, Danske Bank in Estonia, and FBME Bank.
Salas is married to attorney Mark Anderl, with whom she had a son, Daniel.
On July 19, 2020, an assailant dressed as a FedEx employee targeted Salas’ family at their home. Salas's son Daniel, aged 20, opened the door when the attacker knocked. The assailant opened fire, killing Daniel at the scene. Salas’ husband, Mark, was also shot multiple times, and was left in a critical but stable condition. Salas was not harmed. An investigation is being led by the FBI. The attacker is still at large, and authorities are searching for a motive. North Brunswick Mayor Francis Womack said that Salas received death threats in the past, but recently there had not been any.