The new Senate Judiciary Committee: no more rubber stamps

Barry Albin appears headed toward another fourteen years as a New Jersey Supreme Court Justice, after a four-hour hearing led to a 9-4 recommendation by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Albin has no apparent obstacles when the full Senate votes on his renomination on Thursday. He was praised by GOP Senators for meeting privately meeting with Senators and for patiently answering their public questions.

Albin's nomination was never really in danger. The real news is that the Judiciary Committee has changed the way judicial nominees are confirmed. The recent tradition of simply accepting the Governor's nominee -Albin was not asked a single question during his confirmation hearing seven years ago – appears to have been replaced by a group of Senators who take their constitutional responsibility of advise and consent seriously.

The Albin confirmation set off a small conflict between Judiciary Committee Chairman Paul Sarlo (D-Wood-Ridge) and Gov. Jon Corzine. A Sarlo staffer, responding to an Inside Edge item wondering if the Bergen County Democrat was up to running the panel, blamed Corzine for taking too much time making appointments and then seeking to push them all through at yesterday's hearing. The Judiciary Committee met for nearly nine hours and considered over fifty appointments in addition to Albin.

Freshman State Sen. Bill Baroni (R-Hamilton), a Seton Hall University law professor, emerged as the intellectual heavyweight of the Judiciary Committee, and should score some points with conservative Republicans for his aggressive questioning on school funding and for his opposition to activist judges.

The hearing also triggered a conflict between some Senators and Allen Etish, the New Jersey Bar Association president, over an op-ed that attacked Republicans for asking for extended hearings on the Albin nomination.

The new Senate Judiciary Committee: no more rubber stamps