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Fernandez-Vina Confirmed by NJ Senate

NEW JERSEY 101.5

A Cuban-American judge from Camden County was confirmed unanimously to the state Supreme Court on Monday, making him the court’s only Hispanic justice and the first of Gov. Chris Christie’s nominees to be confirmed in more than two years.

Faustino J. Fernandez-Vina
Faustino J. Fernandez-Vina (Tim Larsen, Governor’s Office)

The vote on Superior Court assignment judge Faustino Fernandez-Vina was 38-0.

The only other Christie pick to advance was corporate lawyer Anne Patterson, who was sworn in in 2011, after waiting a year to be confirmed.

Two Christie nominees remain stalled. Two others were rejected outright by Democrats who control the state Senate. Senior appellate court judges have been called up temporarily to fill gaps on the seven-member Supreme Court.

Fernandez-Vina, 61, had a far easier confirmation process than any prior Christie nominee. Nominated in August, he sailed the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last month, with his nomination advancing to the full Senate on a unanimous 13-0 vote.

If the Senate had not acted on the nomination before reorganizing in January, Fernandez-Vina would have had to go through another committee confirmation hearing.

Christie praised the nominee and applauded Democrats for putting politics aside.

“I am glad the legislature left politics out of this process and gave Judge Fernandez-Vina the smooth confirmation he deserves,” Christie said in a statement. The governor is heading to Arizona, where he will become chairman of the Republican Governors Association later this week.

Fernandez-Vina received praise for his intellect, work ethic and management skills from Republicans and Democrats before the vote.

Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean Jr. said it was extraordinary that two senators at opposite ends of the political spectrum, Democrat Ray Lesniak of Union County and Republican Michael Doherty of Warren County, agreed about the judge’s qualifications.

Christie put forward Fernandez-Vina’s name at the same time he decided not to re-nominate another Republican, Helen Hoens, who had served for one seven-year term and was up for tenure. He said at the time he felt that Democrats would pick her apart, but Democrats argued that Christie backed away because he didn’t want to have this fight while running for re-election. Christie won another term this month in a landslide.

The partisan feud over the Supreme Court goes back to one of the first major decisions of Christie’s first term, when he did not re-nominate Justice John Wallace, the court’s only black jurist. Though the move infuriated Democrats, Christie said during his first gubernatorial campaign he would tame a court he viewed as too activist if elected.

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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