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NJ Bar Group Backs Chief Justice, Warns Christie

The New Jersey Bar Association is urging the reappointment of the chief justice of the state Supreme Court, telling Gov. Chris Christie that a refusal to rename him would represent “an unprecedented intrusion of politics” into the judiciary.

judges gavel
Joe Raedle, Getty Images

The association made public on Thursday a resolution that endorses the re-nomination of Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, whose term ends in June. It says Rabner has served with distinction and “authored dozens of opinions that exhibit intellectual rigor, clear reasoning and an unbiased commitment to improving New Jersey law.”

Christie made the composition of the court an issue during his first run for governor, saying that if elected, he would reshape a court he viewed as too activist. He has criticized its rulings on issues including affordable housing, education funding and gay marriage, and refused to reappoint two previous justices. He has not yet revealed his position on Rabner, who was appointed by former Gov. Jon Corzine, a Democrat.

A section of the two-page resolution reads: “It would be an unprecedented intrusion of politics into the third coequal branch, and continued evidence of attempts to undermine the independence of that branch, to decline the reappointment of the sitting chief justice, the person entrusted to lead the judicial branch of government, as no chief justice has been denied tenure under our current constitution.”

The state’s highest court has been a constant battleground between the Democrat-controlled Senate and the Republican governor. Democrats have largely blocked efforts they say would change the partisan balance of the court.

Democrats confirmed one Christie nominee after a year’s wait, then rejected two nominees — an Asian and an openly gay black man — citing questions about their qualifications. A more recent nominee, Cuban-born Judge Faustino Fernandez-Vina of South Jersey, was confirmed easily to succeed Republican Justice Helen Hoens, whom Christie did not reappoint.

There are two vacancies on the seven-member court.

Rabner would gain tenure if reappointed, enabling him to serve until the retirement age of 70.

 

(Copyright 2014 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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