Sweeney: No hearing for Christie’s Supreme Court nominee
Gov. Chris Christie’s nominee for the state Supreme Court will not get a hearing.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, issued a statement Tuesday in which he says the Senate won’t consider Christie’s nomination of Superior Court Judge David Bauman, a Republican from Monmouth County, because it would leave just two Democrats on the seven-member high court.
“This nominee will not have a hearing, and the only way I will consider a Christie nominee is if the governor preserves judicial independence by submitting a Democrat for the court,” Sweeney said.
The Supreme Court has had just two Republicans at times in recent years, but Democrats say that is because Jaynee LaVecchia, a registered independent, should be considered a Republican because she served in Gov. Christie Whitman’s administration and has donated money to GOP candidates.
Christie's office said Sweeney didn't object when the Supreme Court had four Democrats, two Republicans and an independent from 2002 to 2010. Sweeney voted to support Barry Albin, a Democrat, when he replaced a Republican, Gary Stein, in 2002.
"With a Republican governor in office, the Senate president now reverses himself, fabricates history, and makes dishonest arguments of political convenience to justify the unjustifiable and excuse the inexcusable," said Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts.
Sweeney said there has been a tradition of partisan balance since the current state constitution was adopted in 1947, creating the modern judiciary. Christie interprets the tradition as meaning as many as four members of a governor's party can be on the court and says Bauman would be the fourth. He doesn't count LaVecchia.
Christie nominated Bauman in 2012, but the Senate didn’t hold a hearing on his candidacy. Last May, the Senate confirmed Bauman for a tenured appointment as a Superior Court judge.
Christie said in again nominating Bauman that Democrats are blasting Republicans in Washington for refusing to hold hearings on President Barack Obama’s pending nomination of a Supreme Court justice while doing the same in New Jersey.
On Monday’s “Ask the Governor” program, Christie called Sweeney’s refusal to consider any court candidates Christie nominates “terribly ill-tempered.”
In his statement, Sweeney turned the dispute over the court into a knock on Christie’s surprise endorsement of Donald Trump for president.
“As Senate president I don't get to select the governor I am going to work with, but I do get to choose who and what I fight for, and that includes the needs and priorities of New Jersey’s low-income and middle-class families,” Sweeney said.
“In contrast, Gov. Christie has chosen to focus on his personal ambitions by engaging in political games in a misguided attempt to build up his new allegiance with Donald Trump,” Sweeney said. “He’s treating his responsibilities as governor as a continued job interview with the Republican Party in Washington.”
Christie said Monday that the U.S. Senate should hold a hearing and vote on Obama’s nominee, even if it rejects the choice.