In a charged political atmosphere around Gov. Chris Christie’s associate justice nominee Anne Patterson this afternoon, state Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman state Sen. Nick Scutari (D-Linden) immediately pursued Patterson’s capacity to be a fair arbiter before his Democratic Party colleagues drilled into her GOP campaign contributions.
“Can you put aside your bias?” asked the Democratic Party judiciary chair, in reference to what he cited as Patterson’s long-standing representation of corporate clients at law firm Riker Danzig.
“I’ve represented hundreds of clients – large corporations, family businesses – I have served for three decades and I absolutely believe I can be unbiased,” said Patterson, on hold for a year amid political wrangling between the governor and the Democratic senate.
“You have represented (corporate) defendants for many years,” Scutari said.
Invoking a common complaint of the governor’s, Scutari asked Patterson if she shares Christie’s view that the Supreme Court is a hive of judicial activism.
“Do you think judicial activism is a problem in New Jersey’s courts?”
“It’s one of those terms that if you took ten law reviews you would have ten definitions,’ she said.
To the question of her politicial affiliation and leanings, “I am a Republican,” said Patterson. “I have carefully studied the positions of candidates before I voted. For the most part the candidates I have determined I should vote for are Republicans.”
She has given around $10,000 to political campaigns, however, noted state Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-37).
“All of my political contributions have been at the request of my law firm – with the exception of one – and that was Bill Baroni,” said the nominee.
With no one asking, and impressed by Baroni, she wrote a check to the former 14th District legislator’s campaign.
State Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-36) undertook the same line of questioning regarding political campaign contributions and the nominee’s political work, including her successful efforts to get the late Bob Franks on the ballot to run run for U.S. Senate.
Patterson did not specifically answer Scutari’s question about which Supreme Court decisions of the past number of years she considered most important.
A resident of Mendham Township, which is Christie’s hometown, Patterson told state Sen. Nia Gill (D-Montclair) under questioning, “I have never been to the governor’s house.”
She said she met Christie 20 years ago when the two worked in the same legal circles. “He attended depositions that I took,” Patterson told Gill.