Camden County Superior Court Assignment Judge Faustino J. Fernandez-Vina, who Gov. Christie nominated Monday to the state Supreme Court bench, has ruled with Camden City on two controversial cases.
As my colleague Matt Katz reported in today’s Inquirer, the Cuban-born judge helped pave the way for the controversial new Camden County police force. He also ruled on the long-delayed and debated city business curfew.
In April, Fernandez-Vina upheld the city's business curfew ordinance passed in 2011, which was legally challenged by a city activist, some take-out restaurant owners and 7-Eleven.
Fernandez-Vina called the ordinance – mandating businesses within 200 feet of residential zone close at 11 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on weekends-- “a valid exercise of police power by governing body,” and that it was “reasonably related” to trying to improve quality of life for Camden residents.
But the judge's decision is being reviewed by the state Appellate Court and the business curfew has been put on hold. The appeal was filed by 7-Eleven, which has three 24/7 stores in the city.
City activist Frank Fulbrook, who filed the initial business curfew lawsuit in 2011, said that while Fernandez-Vina always treated him “fairly” in court, he didn’t show good judgment on the curfew case.
Fulbrook said the city’s list of affected businesses used in the trial was “pure garbage,” noting that there were many inaccuracies in which businesses were listed. The city has not provided the Inquirer with a copy of the so-called “eateries list.”
“For the city to submit an erroneous document is one thing,” Fulbrook said Monday, referencing to the eateries list presented at trial. “For a Superior Court Judge to accept that document as if it had validity is very revealing of that judge.”
In June 2012, Fernandez-Vina ruled against putting the matter of disbanding the Camden police to create a controversial county police department before voters in a special summer election.
Gov. Christie is a strong supporter of the county-run force, which took effect on May 1.
If confirmed, Fernandez-Vina would be the high court's only representative from South Jersey. Christie said Fernandez-Vina is a Republican, although election records listed him as a Democrat. (Read Matt Katz’s story for details on Fernandez-Vina’s political affiliation.)