Death and retirements gave Democratic Governor Robert Meyner the opportunity to make eight New Jersey Supreme Court appointments during his eight years as Governor – the most for any Governor under the current State Constitution, including Alfred Driscoll, who made seven appointments in December 1947.
But during the eight years that Meyner’s successor, Democrat Richard Hughes, was Governor, he made no Supreme Court appointments. But Hughes would himself serve as Chief Justice for nearly six years after leaving office.
Not including sitting Judges being renominated, Republicans William Cahill and Christine Todd Whitman nominated five Justices; Brendan Byrne picked four; James E. McGreevey and Jon Corzine named three; and Thomas Kean selected just two new Justices during his eight years as Governor. James Florio made no Supreme Court appointments during his four years as Governor.
If Corzine gets re-elected, he would make at least two more Supreme Court appointments when Virginia Long and John Wallace reach their mandatory retirement ages of seventy in 2012. And he could get a sixth new Justice in 2011 if he decides to drop Roberto Rivera-Soto, who was censured by the court last year.
Meyner, who was elected in 1953 and 1957, made his first Supreme Court appointment in 1956 when he named Joseph Weintraub to fill the seat of William Brennan, who had been named to the U.S. Supreme Court. Meyner elevated Weintraub to Chief Justice ten months later when Arthur Vanderbilt died in office. Weintraub went on to serve sixteen years as Chief Justice.
In order to maintain the traditional bi-partisanship of the court when Weintraub, a Democrat, replaced the Republican Vanderbilt, Meyner nominated Republican Haydyn Proctor, a former State Senate President from Monmouth County, as an Associate Justice.
Meyner nominated John Francis to the top court in 1957; Francis was the Democratic nominee for Congress in 1944, losing 52%-46% to U.S. Rep. Frank Sundstrom. He appointed two more Democrats in 1959: Thomas Schettino, who had served as a top aide to Governor Charles Edison; and Bound Brook attorney Frederick Hall, who had been Vanderbilt’s law partner. To replace a Republican Justice in 1960, Meyner chose Vincent Haneman, a former GOP Assemblyman from Atlantic County and onetime Mayor of Brigantine.
Meyner’s eighth appointment was Nathan Jacobs, a Republican who was renominated in 1959. Jacobs had been a top court judge (then the Court of Errors and Appeals) for a few months in 1948, but was not reappointed by Driscoll. He returned to the top court in 1952.