Bar group to Christie: Reappoint chief justice
TRENTON - The New Jersey Bar Association is urging the reappointment of the chief justice of the state Supreme Court, telling Gov. Christie that a refusal to rename him would represent "an unprecedented intrusion of politics" into the judiciary.
The association made public Thursday a resolution that endorses the renomination of Stuart Rabner, whose term ends in June. It says Rabner has served with distinction and "authored dozens of opinions that exhibit intellectual rigor, clear reasoning, and an unbiased commitment to improving New Jersey law."
Christie made the composition of the court an issue during his first run for governor, saying he would reshape a court he viewed as too activist.
He has criticized its rulings on issues including affordable housing, education funding, and gay marriage, and refused to reappoint two previous justices. He has not revealed his position on Rabner, who was appointed by Gov. Jon S. Corzine, a Democrat.
A section of the two-page resolution reads: "It would be an unprecedented intrusion of politics into the third coequal branch, and continued evidence of attempts to undermine the independence of that branch, to decline the reappointment of the sitting chief justice, the person entrusted to lead the judicial branch of government, as no chief justice has been denied tenure under our current constitution."
The state's highest court has been a constant battleground between the Democratic-controlled Senate and the Republican governor. Democrats have largely blocked efforts they say would change the partisan balance of the court.
Democrats confirmed one Christie nominee after a year's wait, then rejected two nominees - an Asian and an openly gay black man - citing questions about their qualifications. A more recent nominee, Cuban-born Judge Faustino Fernandez-Vina of South Jersey, was confirmed easily to succeed Republican Justice Helen Hoens, whom Christie did not reappoint.
There are two vacancies on the seven-member court.
Rabner, 53, would gain tenure if reappointed, enabling him to serve until the retirement age of 70.