Black History Month: News 12 interviews Scott Pennington, Hoboken’s 1st Black municipal court judge

Judge Scott Pennington says he believes everything happens for a reason and though his journey wasn't a traditional one, it prepared him for the position he holds today.

Naomi Yané

Feb 19, 2024, 5:25 PM

Updated 149 days ago


The Honorable Scott Pennington comes from a family of firsts. On Aug. 29, 2023, Mayor Ravi Bhalla swore him in as the first Black Municipal Court judge in Hoboken.
“I found it amazing when I was offered the position and I thought to myself, ‘The first again.’ This is a quarter of the way into the 21st Century and we’re still doing firsts,” Pennington says.
As a municipal court judge, Pennington handles mostly traffic matters, but also domestic violence, larceny and drugs - just to name a few.
“The average American who has a court experience, has it right here, in a municipal court,” Pennington says.
With a law career spanning decades, the road to the bench wasn’t an obvious one or an easy one. At just the age of 16, Pennington dropped out of high school.
“My mother had a rule, she said you have to either finish school, go on to college, go to the military, get a job, or get out of here,” he says.
Shortly after, Pennington joined the United States Air Force after scoring exceptionally high on the entrance exam. With a little nudge from his Air Force commander all that, propelled his scholastic career.
“I was actually ordered to finish high school in the base education center and then he ordered me to go to college,” Pennington says.
Pennington went on to become a high school teacher, completed his law school education, became a criminal defense attorney and later opened a law office with his wife Christina, who is also an attorney. Pennington says he believes that everything happens for a reason and though his journey wasn’t a traditional one, it prepared him for the position he holds now.
“Various types of people come before me from all walks of life. And they’re probably wondering what do I have in common with them, how do I understand their plight. I’ve been a single parent, I’ve been a high school dropout. I’ve actually experienced relative affluence but certainly relative poverty too and because of that I think I can relate to people a lot better,” Pennington says.

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