As the nominations of Phillip Kwon and Bruce Harris creep toward a hearing by the Senate Judiciary Committee, it’s worth noting that a thumbs down from the committee or the Senate as a whole are not the only ways a candidacy can be derailed.
In New Jersey, Supreme Court nominees are subject to Senatorial Courtesy, which is often described as an “arcane practice” but in recent months has become nearly a household term.
Senatorial courtesy allows a senator residing in the nominee’s home county to block the nomination for any reason. Recently, courtesy drove a nominee to pick up and move after Sen. Ron Rice blocked Christopher Cerf, Gov. Chris Christie’s nominee for Commissioner of Education.
Cerf eventually moved to Republican friendly Somerset County, though he did not say if Rice’s block had anything to do with it.
In the case of Kwon, whose nomination may be hitting turbulence, four Bergen County senators hold sway over his nomination. Democratic State Sens. Paul Sarlo of Wood-Ridge, Loretta Weinberg of Teaneck and Bob Gordon of Fair Lawn all reside in Bergen County. Since Kwon is from Closter any of the three could exercise courtesy.
Kwon’s hometown is represented by Republican Sen. Gerald Cardinale. And though it’s unlikely a Republican would put the kibosh on a Christie nominee, Cardinale also could exercise courtesy.
In Harris’ case, Republicans Tom Kean Jr., who represents Harris’s hometown of Chatham Borough, and Joe Pennacchio and Anthony Bucco who live in Morris County all could exercise courtesy over Harris, a Republican. Sen. Steve Oroho and Sen. Dick Codey also represent portions of the county, but live in Sussex and Essex respectively so are not eligible to exercise courtesy.