Tuesday, May 04, 2010

NJ Democrats Don't Get It About Court Nominations

In New Jersey, it is a governor's right to nominate or opt not to nominate or renominate a justice to the state supreme court. Yet, the Senate President, Democrat Stephen Sweeney thinks that it is his right to engage in grandstanding and outrageous outrage over Gov. Chris Christie's refusal to renominate Justice John Wallace trumps that of Christie.
"He's sending a message, and we're sending a message right back," Sweeney said in an interview in his Statehouse office. "We're not going to allow the Judiciary to be intimidated."

Although Christie has the power to nominate top government officials like Supreme Court justices, as Senate president Sweeney controls which nominations and bills move through the Legislature's upper house. Top Democrats have previously said the Senate will not hold any confirmation hearings on Anne Patterson, a lawyer in a private Morristown law firm and Christie's choice to replace Wallace.

"Regardless of her qualifications, she's not going to get a hearing," said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Nicholas Scutari (D-Union), whose committee is responsible for vetting the governor's nominees.

Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak said Monday that Patterson, a partner at a prominent Morristown law firm, deserves a fair hearing.

"This is not an unreasonable request, and it is a function of the state constitution," he said. "It is our request based on state constitution -- which we know the Senate president, and the Senate as a whole, respects and embraces -- that our nominee get a hearing and a vote."
So, these Democrats are going to hold up the nomination process for Wallace's replacement why? It is because Christie isn't going along with the current court's makeup. Christie has the right to nominate qualified candidates as he sees fit, and the State Senate can opt to confirm or reject candidates as they see fit, but to refuse holding hearings altogether? That's an abuse of power and unconscionable on their part.

It is the legislature's responsibility to confirm candidates nominated by the governor, and their refusal to do so bodes poorly on the Democrats who are going along with this nonsense. Wallace has served the state judiciary; he's not being renominated as per Christie's intentions. Sweeney's move is a threat to demand that Christie retain Wallace, even though the Governor can nominate as he sees fit.

Why is this acceptable behavior on the part of the top Democrat in the state? Elections have outcomes - including judicial appointments. This is one of them - the ability to pick judges that fit the governor's political and legal philosophies. That's how it's been done in the past - but here Sweeney wants to substitute his own judgment for that of the governor and that oversteps his authority in the process.

Democrats are hoping that people will focus on the fact that no governor has opted not to reappoint a sitting justice since 1947 when the current state constitution was enacted, but given the dysfunction in the state and the need to clean up Trenton, this is a precedent that is in need of being broken once and for all. Courts are responsible for some atrocious decisions that have rendered the state on the verge of insolvency, including the Abbott decision on education funding that have fallen short on delivering quality education to students and improving student performance and decisions relating to affordable housing that have proven to be anything but affordable.

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