Camden Judge Fernandez-Vina nominated to high court

TRENTON – Gov. Chris Christie today nominated Camden County Judge Faustino Fernandez-Vina for state Supreme Court, and said he has informed Justice Helen Hoens she will not be renominated to her term on the high court.

Christie said his decisions were based on the continued public threats of Democrats – in particular Sen. Ray Lesniak – to “play hardball’’ with his right to nominate justices.

He said he thanked Hoens this morning for her seven years of service on the bench, and assured her this decision was not reflective of her ability.

Fernandez-Vina, 62, Cuban born, is a living example of the American Dream, Christie said.

Christie reiterated his commitment to reshape the court, which he said has repeatedly overstepped its role.

Christie said this gives the court Hispanic, south Jersey representation and he is a person who has been praised by both sides of the aisle. Fernandez-Vina, of Barrington, is registered Republican.

He said the nomination addresses concerns of Democrats regarding diversity issues.  He previously has nominated a gay African-American and a Korean-American, and he said his nominations stand up the Democrats’ record of diversity.

“They’re going to have to come up with some real fancy footwork,’’ to find a reason not to approve the nomination, Christie said.

“The whispers around these hallways were confirmed publicly three weeks by Sen. Lesniak,’’ Christie said, who added the Democrat’s stance has nothing to do with the nominees’ qualifications but more about their politics.

He added that there is no reason for his previous two nominees – David Bauman and Robert Hanna – to have had their hearings held up for eight months now.

“There hasn’t been one issue raised about their fairness for the court,’’ Christie said.

Even the chief justice acknowledged Fernandez-Vina’s ability by naming him assignment judge in Camden County, Christie said.

He added that if he had renominated Hoens it would be ignoring the political reality of the last three and a half years, and he was not going to subject her to the treatment that previous nominees Phil Kwon and Bruce Harris were subjected to.

In regards to Hoens, Christie said that after watching how the Senate Judiciary handled his prior nominees, he refused to allow the Democrats “to cast a pall over her otherwise outstanding judicial career.”

Christie said that in a phone conversation this morning with Hoens, he said to her that “I am sorry that because of the conduct of people like Sen. Ray Lesniak and others she was not going to be able to serve until her retirement age.”

He said in response to a question that he expected Democrats would have raised issues such as the fact her husband works for his administration and her brother donated $1,200 to his campaign.

“Would they have brought these things up unfairly? Probably,’’ Christie said.

Camden Judge Fernandez-Vina nominated to high court