Gov. Christopher Christie made history today with his nomination of Anne Patterson as an Associate Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court. If the Senate confirms her, the state’s top court will have four women (along with Virginia Long, Jaynee LeVecchia, and Helen Hoens), marking the first time in history that a majority of the seven seats are held by women. But some will see Patterson’s appointment as a step backwards: she will replace John Wallace, the only African American Justice.
New Jersey has had one woman Chief Justice: Deborah Poritz, who served from 1996 (she was named by Gov. Christine Todd Whitman) until her retirement in 2006. The first woman to serve on the New Jersey Supreme Court was Marie Garibaldi, who was nominated by Gov. Thomas Kean in 1982. Whitman also named the first African American to the Supreme Court when she picked James Coleman in 1994; Wallace took Coleman’s seat in 2003.