An apparent conflict exists between the Governor of New Jersey and the Chairman of the State Senate Judiciary Committee, both Democrats, over the role of the Senate in the confirmation of Supreme Court Justices. Gov. Jon Corzine says that "providing advice and consent on the nomination of a Supreme Court Justice…should not be a shot in the dark," and that it is "vital that we learn everything we can about… (the) judicial philosophy" of a nominee.
But State Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Wood-Ridge), in response to a request from Republicans on his committee seeking three days of hearings on the renomination of Associate Justice Barry Albin, says that while he'll provide "ample time time to discuss with Justice Albin the pertinent information to his re-nomination to the Supreme Court." But Sarlo says he will "not allow for the politicizing of this appointment, because, frankly, I believe that Justice Albin, and the people of New Jersey, deserve better."
"Our judicial system is designed in such a way to insulate judges from politics," Sarlo said in a statement posted on PolitickerNJ.com today. "For this very reason, judges are appointed, as opposed to elected, and their nomination is reviewed based on the merit of the person, not the weight of their politics.
In September 2005, while Corzine was serving in the United States Senate, he announced that he could not "in good conscience vote to confirm Judge (John) Roberts as Chief Justice.
"While he has demonstrated intelligence and eloquence, he has not provided adequate insight into his views or judicial philosophy. The Supreme Court is too important and the stakes are too high to roll the dice on a judge who may sit on the bench for decades to come," Corzine said. "I fear that we have not learned all that we should learn about Judge Roberts for a lifetime appointment of such significance."
Two weeks later, in a statement following the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, Corzine called the Supreme Court the keystone of democracy and said that "it is vital that we learn everything we can about her (Miers') judicial philosophy and her commitment to mainstream American values."
"The Senate has a responsibility to the American people to make certain that our freedoms and constitutional rights are protected," Corzine said. "It is essential that Ms. Miers fully answer questions about her constitutional and legal philosophy and her views on precedent, and that the White House provide access to documents related to her tenure in public life.
After Miers withdrew and President George W. Bush nominated New Jerseyan Samuel Alito to the court, Corzine noted that the "Senate has a responsibility to provide advice and consent on the president's judicial appointments."
"The Senate is not a rubber stamp," Corzine said.
Sarlo strongly hinted that he's not about to allow Senate Republicans to conduct the type of confirmation hearing Corzine advocated in Washington.
"A minority of my colleagues on the Judiciary Committee may disagree, and that's within their right and duty of advising and consenting on all gubernatorial nominations. But if one of the members of my panel thinks for a second that they're going to get away with dragging this nomination through the political muck in an effort to win partisan advantage, they are grossly mistaken," Sarlo said.
Sarlo, who became Judiciary Chairman earlier this year after John Adler (D-Cherry Hill) was elected to Congress, said that the state deserves "an honest and frank dialogue about Justice Albin's qualifications, not partisan rants from atop the soapbox."
As the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, I will do everything within my power to make sure that we respect the non-political nature of this appointment, and will not stand by while some attempt to exploit this re-nomination for partisan gain," said Sarlo.