Christie: N.J. Bar Association has limited scope in evaluating Supreme Court nominees

TRENTON – Gov. Chris Christie said today the N.J. Bar Association has a very limited scope in evaluating his Supreme Court nominees, and he hopes they keep that in mind.

Christie said the Bar’s job is to decide “not whether they agree with (the nominees) or not, not whether they would be their choice or not,” but only, “whether they possess the legal qualifications” for the job.

“I can’t imagine that the Bar Association is not going to approve these nominees,” he said. “They have no factual basis to turn these folks down.”

“Regardless of what they do…I support these nominees,” Christie said. “There will be no circumstances that we will withdraw them from the Senate because of actions taken by the Bar Association.”

Christie was asked at his press conference today, given his calls for diversity on the high court, why he hadn’t nominated outgoing Attorney General Paula Dow, who is an African-American woman. “I picked the two people who I thought were best for the Supreme Court,” Christie said curtly.

Questioned on the discrepancies about the political make-up of the new court, Christie took to task Democrats who are claiming a Republican tilt on the historically balanced bench.

In particular, Christie said the Dems were twisting the story around politically-unaffiliated Justice Jaynee LaVecchia, who is being labeled a Republican because she was appointed by former Gov. Christie Whitman. Christie said that would make former Justice John Wallace – a known Democrat – also a Republican under that logic.

“They are grappling for reasons, and not having to do with the merits, to knock these guys down,” he said of his nominees, Bruce Harris and Phillip Kwon.

Kwon is also included in the discussion over political balance, considering Kwon was announced as an unaffiliated voter, but had been registered in New York as a Republican.

“Mr. Kwon is undeclared in the state of New Jersey,” he said. “That’s his party affiliation, not what it was in New York…I’m not going to deal with these questions of party affiliation.”

Under Christie’s logic, the court would lean, 3-2-2, toward the GOP, while Democrats are framing the balance as a 4-2-1, or even 5-2, tilt toward conservatives.

The governor also took the press to the woodshed over their coverage of the nominees. “The reporting on this has been, to excoriate you people, the reporting on this has been lousy,” Christie said.

Christie: N.J. Bar Association has limited scope in evaluating Supreme Court nominees