Gov. Chris Christie is again nominating to the state Supreme Court a Superior Court judge who didn’t even get a Senate hearing when offered as a candidate more than three years ago, essentially daring Democrats to ignore him while complaining about similar inaction by Congress.

Governor Chris Christie announces his selection of Judge David F. Bauman for nomination to the position of Associate Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court on Monday, Feb. 29, 2016. (Governor's Office/ Mykwain Gainey)
Governor Chris Christie announces his selection of Judge David F. Bauman for nomination to the position of Associate Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court on Monday, Feb. 29, 2016. (Governor's Office/ Mykwain Gainey)

Superior Court Judge David Bauman of Holmdel was nominated to the Supreme Court by Christie in 2012, but the Senate didn’t hold a hearing in the 13 months that followed. Christie didn’t nominate Bauman when making an appointment in 2014 but returned to Bauman today.

Christie gave two primary reasons for nominating Bauman and hoping for a different result. First, the Senate last May unanimously approved him for a lifetime appointment as a Superior Court judge without asking any questions at his reconfirmation hearing.

Secondly, Democrats who are pressing the U.S. Senate to give a hearing to President Barack Obama’s upcoming nominee to the Supreme Court should want the same in New Jersey.

“We’ve had Democrats throughout this state and around the country clamoring about Washington, D.C., and the idea that it would be absolutely unacceptable for the Republicans in the United States Senate to hold up the confirmation of a United States Supreme Court justice for 11 months," Christie said during a news conference Monday. "This seat has been held open for six years. It’s no longer acceptable, and it’s not acceptable to me.”

The governor called it "partisan politics."

“I hope and trust that given how vocal Democrats have been about Washington, D.C., and the problems down there that they will allow New Jersey to set an example,” Christie said. “I hope that we’ll stop this six-year roadblock on filling this seat. It’s wrong, and it’s unprecedented, and we need to get moving on it."

Christie said Republican senators in Washington should hold a hearing on Obama’s eventual nominee for the Supreme Court.

“I believe that’s absolutely the right thing to do. People can vote up or down however they choose, but hearings should be held,” Christie said.

During the news conference, Christie refused to take questions on topics unrelated to the Supreme Court nomination.

Christie scoffed at the idea that the nomination was announced to distract attention from the political firestorm set off by his endorsement of Donald Trump for president. He said he has been interviewing candidates, including prospects other than Bauman, and that the appointment has been in the works.

Bauman, 59, has been a Superior Court judge since 2008. He currently serves in the criminal division of the Monmouth County courts though also has experience in its family and civil division. He headed the civil division from 2009 through last December.

“Three years ago, I stood at this podium and pledged to the people of this great state that if my nomination were confirmed, I would do everything in my power to justify this honor. Today, I reaffirm that pledge,” Bauman said.

Bauman would be the first Asian-American on the state Supreme Court if he is confirmed. Christie said the nomination "continues my commitment to bring diversity to the court.”

Democrats, who control the Senate, have been upset with Christie over Supreme Court issues since the governor opted not to renominate Justice John Wallace Jr. in 2010.

It’s likely they would resist Bauman’s nomination because it would lead to a court with four Republicans, two Democrats and an independent. Christie says that would maintain the traditional partisan balance, but Democrats don’t agree.

Christie said when a Supreme Court seat is vacant, the chief justice -- currently Stuart Rabner -- gets to pick the court's seventh justice. A justice's choices are limited by the constitution and Supreme Court rules, however, to retired Supreme Court justices or the current judge with the longest tenure in the appellate division.

Appellate Judge Mary Catherine Cuff has been temporarily assigned to the Supreme Court since October 2012.

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