Sen. Nia Gill on Thursday remained the only senator to vote against Stuart Rabner, both in committee and in the senate as a whole, on a day when the rest of the senate enthusiastically embraced the outgoing attorney general as chief justice for the state Supreme Court.
The final vote was 35-1.
Gill said she was unhappy with the rushed atmosphere surrounding Rabner’s nomination, which reached a fever pitch when U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie got in front of a microphone last week and bashed elected officials in the halls of government for failing to act swiftly in confirming Rabner for the office of chief justice.
Gill retreated from her initial entrenchment of senatorial courtesy, but today was consistent in arguing for the need for more time to make a “deliberate and responsible decision… this is chief justice.”
After Rabner’s question and answer session with judiciary committee members, Gill said she could not affirm his nomination because in her view Rabner lacks experience, and comes out of an attorney general’s office that has been unstable in recent years.
“I rarely agree with her, but Nia Gill is right,:” said John Tomzicki of the conservative League of American Families, who was unhappy that Judiciary Committee Chairman John Adler didn’t let him testify.
“The process could have gone a little longer,” Tomzicki said.
Tomzicki conceded that the Ivy League Rabner was an excellent candidate, an opinion other committee members shared, including Sen. Tom Kean, Jr., who later before the full senate publicly commended Gov. Jon Corzine on his selections for chief justice and the attorney general’s office.
Adler acknowledged Rabner hadn’t been attorney general for a long period of time (since September of last year) but, “Over the course of a few months he restored prestige to a tattered and battered office,” the chairman said.
The conservative Sen. Gerald Cardinale was equally unabashed in heaping praise on Rabner and Rabner’s replacement as attorney general, Anne Milgram, who went before the committee immediately after Rabner on Thursday, and who was also later approved by the senate, 36-0.
“Rare is the occasion when I can enthusiastically vote in favor of the nominees of a Democratic governor,” said Cardinale, who liked what he saw as Rabner’s and Milgram’s no nonsense, non-activist approach to the law.
In Milgram’s case, the resume didn’t hurt, either, particularly when it came to a certain assignment that caught the playful side of Cardinale’s attention.
“Some training came through (former U.S.) Attorney General (John) Ashcroft,” said Cardinale. “That’s one of the reasons I’m going to vote yes.”
“You were supposed to save that until after the votes had been cast,” said Sen. Joseph Kyrillos.
Ashcroft and all, there was no fight beyond Gill’s reservations in the case of Rabner.
“The state is in the best of hands for quite a few years,” Senate President Richard Codey said when the senate approved Rabner and Milgram.