Confirmation Hearings Set for High Court Nominees
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- The two Supreme Court nominees who were the subject of a deal between Gov. Chris Christie and New Jersey's Senate president will get confirmation hearings Monday.
Sen. Nick Scutari, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told The Associated Press that he is scheduling hearings for Chief Justice Stuart Rabner and Superior Court Judge Lee Solomon.
"I am looking forward to moving the judiciary forward after an extended period of controversy," Scutari said.
The agreement between the Republican governor and Democratic Senate president paved the way for Rabner to be reconfirmed and Solomon to be confirmed for an initial seven-year term. A seventh seat on the bench will remain vacant, to be filled temporarily by the senior judge on the Appellate Court.
Rabner, 53, was originally nominated by former Gov. Jon Corzine, a Democrat. If confirmed as expected, he could serve until the mandatory retirement age of 70.
Solomon, 59, is a former head of the state's Board of Public Utilities and Christie's pick. He would come up for renomination in 2021.
If both are confirmed, the court would gain a Republican member, shifting the partisan balance to three Republicans, two Democrats and one independent. Sign-off is needed by the Judiciary panel and the full Senate.
Christie and the Democrats have continually feuded over judicial appointments, starting in 2009 when candidate Christie vowed to remake a Supreme Court he saw as too activist. The governor has been particularly critical of high court rulings on school funding and affordable housing that have gone against his positions.
In 2010, he failed to renominate the court's only African American justice, infuriating Democrats, who, in turn, refused to consider his nominee for a year.
That nominee, corporate lawyer Anne Patterson, was confirmed in 2011. However, Democrats beat back two other Christie picks and stalled action on two others before confirming Republican Superior Court Judge Faustino Fernandez-Vina in January. Like Fernandez-Vina, Solomon lives in Camden County.
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