Following public threats from Democratic Sen. Ray Lesniak that he would play “hardball” with Gov. Chris Christie over his State Supreme Court justice nominations, Christie has decided not to re-nominate associate justice Helen Hoens. The Governor says he wants to spare Hoens from having to be raked over the coals by Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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

“I am sorry that because of the conduct of people like Sen. Ray Lesniak and others she was not going to be able to serve until her retirement age,” Christie said he told Hoens during a phone call this morning. He said she, "took the news like a complete professional."

To replace Hoens, Christie has nominated Faustino Fernandez-Vina who has served as a judge on the New Jersey Superior Court since July 2004. He was nominated to the Superior Court by Democratic Governor Jim McGreevey in 2004 and was unanimously approved by the Judiciary Committee, and unanimously confirmed by the full Senate. He was re-nominated and re-confirmed in 2011.

“I am of course saddened that I will not be able to continue in this extraordinary professional calling, but I am thankful beyond words for the great privilege and honor of having been able to serve the people of this great State as a Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court,” wrote Hoens in an emailed statement.

Republicans leaders in the Senate are applauding Christie’s latest nomination.

“When it comes to New Jersey’s Supreme Court, Gov. Christie has gone above and beyond his duties to give this Senate the opportunity to ignore politics and confirm the most balanced and diverse slate of Justices in state history,” said Sen. GOP Leader Tom Kean Jr. “Camden Assignment Judge Fernandez-Vina stands out on the list of uniquely qualified Supreme Court nominees that the most-successful U.S. Attorney for New Jersey has put forth for this Senate to confirm.”

Senate Democrats are not commenting.

Governor's Office