In March, Phil Kwon, one of Governor Chris Christie's two nominees to fill vacancies on the State Supreme Court became the first nominee in modern history to be rejected by the State Senate Judiciary Committee.

Today, it's possible, if not likely, that nominee Bruce Harris will become the second.

State Senator Nick Scutari is chairman of the judiciary panel. He insists he doesn't know if Harris will be approved after testimony is taken today, but he does know one thing for certain.

Scutari explains, "He's going to have some difficulties. I can tell you that. Yeah, I have a feeling that he's going to have a rough going."

Scutari says he hasn't spoken with other Democrats on the committee to find out how they plan to vote, other than Senator Ray Lesniak who says he will vote 'no' because Harris, who is openly gay, has said he'll recuse himself from any case involving the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Asked how he plans to vote today, Scutari says, "I'm going to keep an open mind."

Christie says, "I hope that this is not just a political game that's being played and that they've already pre-determined what's going on.  Because if that's the case, then why would we have hearings at all with anybody?  I've certainly not been given any heads-up from anybody in the Senate that's it's (the hearing) going to go one way or the other. I take that as a hopeful sign."

Scutari says he has real questions about Harris' qualifications for the High Court. He says, "He's got really no, not limited, but no court experience……He's never even been in a municipal court to handle a parking ticket for anyone."

The Governor says, "I think Bruce Harris deserves his day to make his case as to why he is eminently qualified to serve on the Supreme Court."

Christie says as was the case with Kwon, he has no 'Plan B' if Harris is rejected today.

The Governor explains, "All I hope for is that the Senate will fulfill their constitutional duty and I don't know how you can fulfill that without ever hearing from the guy."


In a crushing defeat for Christie in March, the prosecutor he nominated to be the first Asian on the State Supreme Court was rejected by the Senate Judiciary panel after six hours of heated and grueling questioning, one lunch break and a long closed door Q&A. By a 7-6 margin Kwon was shot down, making him the first State Supreme Court nominee in modern history to be rejected. The vote was mostly along party lines with all five Republicans voting 'yes' and seven of the eight Democrats voting 'no.' Senator Brian Stack was the lone Democrat to vote in Kwon's favor.

Harris was supposed to get his hearing that day too, but Kwon's confirmation hearing was so lengthy the committee never even got to hear from Harris.

Christie held a press conference just after Kwon went down in flames and blamed Democrats for a conducting "a circus" and a "political sideshow." He also accused Democrats of playing to their base who were opposed to public worker pension and health benefit reforms.

"This was the payback," said Christie. ""Phil Kwon was sacrificed on the altar of payback to the CWA and the NJEA and the AFL-CIO….I understand political realities and today was political payback for pension and benefit reform. I get it."

Most people in New Jersey probably can't name a single sitting State Supreme Court justice, so many are probably wondering why they should even care that one of Christie's nominees was rejected. Fairleigh Dickinson University political science professor Peter Woolley says the high court impacts every New Jerseyan's life.

"You may think that the justices are just anonymous people who make legal decisions, but in fact, they make decisions about your life, how much money you are going to pay," explains Woolley. "You have to think of the court as every bit as powerful and as decisive as the legislature and the Governor……Everything that the legislature does, everything that the Governor does is likely to be filtered in some way through the court either sooner or later."

On the campaign trail Christie said he wanted to reshape the Supreme Court. He often rails against school funding decisions that still force the state to spend an inordinate amount of property tax dollars on just the 31 poorest schools in New Jersey.

The Governor issued the video below this morning.

Courtesy Governor's Office