Gov. Chris Christie said today that he has no intention of nominating a Democrat to the state Supreme Court until he has a four-Republican majority.
Christie said the current make-up of the state’s highest court and the traditional balance allows him to nominate two Republicans to the court.
“I will not nominate a Democrat until I have four Republicans,” he said. “I am entitled to have four Republicans on the court. If they want Democrats on the court they better win the next election.”
A clearly agitated Christie called the nominating process a farse and said the rejection of Republican Bruce Harris was predetermined by Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee. The governor accused the committee of playing politics with the nomination, calling it a dark day in what was once a dignified process.
“Just when I thought the reputation of this committee couldn’t get any lower, it has,” he said.
The governor took particular issue with state Sen. Nia Gill, a member of the committee, who accused Harris, who is openly gay, of taking a pass on a potential gay marriage vote in order to gain the nomination for the job. Gill invoked civil rights era U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, who she said would never have cut a deal on civil rights to gain a seat on the court.
“He didn’t make a deal,” Christie said. “He made a decision that he informed me of after I nominated him that he would recuse himself on same sex marriage because of previous advocacy. She should be ashamed of herself for making an accusation like that without any actual fact.”
Christie called the 7 to 6 vote against Harris a “political assassination” and said Democrats attacked both Harris and nominee Phil Kwon, whose nomination was shot down in March, because of their voter registrations and not their qualifications.
“The reality is they just don’t want another Republican on the court,” Christie said, calling Kwon a Republican several times during his post-hearing press conference.
Throughout Kwon’s nominating process, Christie maintained that Kwon was an independent because he did not affiliate with a party when he registered in New Jersey in June. Kwon had been a registered Republican while living in New York and Democrats disputed his status as an independent.
While he singled out Gill by name, Christie had harsh words for the committee as a whole, saying they had been given marching orders prior to walking in the door. Some, he said, had trouble even with the talking points they were given.
“It’s embarrassing to have some of those people making decisions as monumental as this,” he said.
It’s unclear how the judicial impasse will be solved as Christie made clear he will continue to nominate qualified Republicans. For their part, Democrats fear that confirming a Republican would take any compromise on a second nominee off the table. The appellate judge appointed as a fill-in – Justice Dorothea Wefing – is a Republican, as is the judge next in line once Wefing is forced to retire in October.
Adding a Republican now gives Christie the four Republicans – five counting Justice Jaynee LaVecchia, who Democrats maintain is a Republican – he covets while forcing him to give up nothing.
Democrats continue to dispute the partisanship of LaVecchia, who also is unaffiliated. They maintain that LaVecchia’s service in two Republican administrations and past donations to Republican candidates make her a Republican, a charge Christie dismissed.
“Jaynee LaVecchia is an independent,” he said. “I’d like someone to come with the voter registration that shows she was ever registered as a Republican.”