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Supreme Court Nominee Grilled On Political Ties

New Jersey Supreme Court nominee Phillip Kwon is being questioned about his ties to a political party as Democrats consider the balance of power on the court.

Phillip Kwon before the Senate Judiciary Committee
Phillip Kwon before the Senate Judiciary Committee (Dino Flammia, Townsquare Media NJ)

Kwon and Bruce Harris, Gov. Chris Christie’s picks for the state Supreme Court, are being considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday.

Kwon, a 44-year-old former federal prosecutor who worked with Christie in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, was a registered Republican in New York for a dozen years. He registered as an unaffiliated voter in New Jersey last year.

Two Democrats and two Republicans sit on the court now.



Christie considers Justice Jaynee LaVecchia an independent. Democrats count her as a Republican. Harris is a Republican.

The unwritten rule is that no more than four justices of one party are on the court.

Lesniak Will Say ‘No’ To Gay Supreme Court Nominee

Senator Ray Lesniak
Senator Ray Lesniak (Dino Flammia, Townsquare Media)

Democratic Sen. Ray Lesniak says he won’t support the nomination of an openly gay black Republican to the New Jersey Supreme Court.

Lesniak, a champion of same-sex marriage, says he takes issue with Bruce Harris’s comments on the issue.

The 61-year-old nominee, who has a longtime partner and has advocated for gay marriage, has told Gov. Chris Christie he would not participate in court decisions on gay marriage.

The Union County senator says Harris’s promise to recuse himself is political.

Lesniak cites a 2009 e-mail in which Harris asserts that gay marriage is a civil right, and therefore a constitutional issue for the courts.

Yesterday the Star-Ledger reported that Phillip Kwon is one vote shy of approval.

Kwon faced criticism following Star-Ledger reports that federal authorities accused a liquor store owned by his wife and mother of breaking up cash deposits to avoid increased government scrutiny. The store forfeited nearly $160,000 in seized assets to settle a civil lawsuit but admitted no liability.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is considering the nominations of Harris and former federal prosecutor Kwon on Thursday.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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