Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christie makes two 'compromise' picks to fill Supreme Court

Gov. Christie nominated the head of the Board of Public Utilities and a Republican Superior Court judge to fill two vacancies on the Supreme Court, saying he was making a "compromise" offer to legislative Democrats to end a long-running stalemate over high court appointments.

Christie makes two 'compromise' picks to fill Supreme Court

Gov. Christie walks to a meeting on Capitol Hill on Thursday. Christie is in Washington to discuss aid to help his state recover from Superstorm Sandy. President Obama is expected to ask Congress for about $50 billion in additional emergency assistance. (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)
Gov. Christie walks to a meeting on Capitol Hill on Thursday. Christie is in Washington to discuss aid to help his state recover from Superstorm Sandy. President Obama is expected to ask Congress for about $50 billion in additional emergency assistance. (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

Complete story in today's paper, here.

Gov. Christie nominated the head of the Board of Public Utilities and a Republican Superior Court judge to fill two vacancies on the Supreme Court this morning, saying he was making a "compromise" offer to legislative Democrats to end a long-running stalemate over high court appointments.

Robert Hanna, 56, of Morris County, worked for Christie at the U.S. Attorney's Office. As governor, Christie appointed him to two posts: director of the Division of Law at the Attorney General’s Office and later president of the BPU, a cabinet position that required Senate confirmation. He is registered to vote as an independent, although he donated $800 to Christie in 2009.

David Bauman, 56, of Monmouth County, born in Japan to a Japanese mother and American father who was serving in the Navy, is a Marine Corps veteran who was appointed to the Monmouth County Superior Court by former Gov. Jon Corzine. He would be the first Asian-American to serve on the high court.

At the beginning of his term Christie broke precedent and opted not to reappoint Gloucester County's John Wallace to the seven-member Supreme Court, leaving it without an African American member. Democrats then demanded that Christie ensure both diversity and political balance when filling vacancies.

"These two nominees represent a political compromise on my part, a reaching out across the aisle to Democrats in order to get our court fully staffed in the way our constitution envisioned," Christie said at a press conference today.

Christie's appointment last year of Anne Patterson made it through the Senate, but for the first time since the modern state constitution was enacted in the mid-20th century, the Senate rejected Christie's next two picks: Bruce Harris, the gay African American Republican mayor of Chatham, and Philip Kwon, a Korean-born registered independent who had worked for Christie at the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Democrats said Harris lacked experience in the courtroom and they contended that Kwon was a stealth Republican under a cloud over his family's legal problems.

Democrats have yet to release a statement on Hanna and Bauman, so we don't know if they will block these nominations. I have already heard from some on the left, though, who are concerned that the nominations would leave the court without an African American or a Latino member in a state where both of those groups are heavily represented.

"We had the chance to confirm an African American justice and they turned me down," Christie said today. Democrats "turned down an extroardinarily qualified African American justice who would have been the first gay justice."

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