TRENTON – The Senate rejected the nomination of a Morris County prosecutor amid a heated back and forth over procedures and politics.
Fredric Knapp’s nomination was rejected after two votes were held amid heated questions from Republican senators objecting to and questioning the procedure involved.
First the Senate relieved his name from the committee stage by a vote of 24-12 and then suspended rules 24-14 to vote immediately on his nomination.
The move seemed to be payback for the governor’s bypassing of the Senate committee and naming Knapp acting prosecutor. Also, the Democrats were angry that this week Christie named a Rutgers board of governors appointee, bypassing the normal process. In Knapp’s case, he first was named assistant attorney general and then acting prosecutor.
When Senators, including Kevin O’Toole and Tom Kean Jr., objected to what Sen. President Steve Sweeney was doing, there was heated argument on the floor.
“The governor bypassed us in his actions,’’ Sweeney said.
O’Toole at one point yelled out that “martial law” was in effect and in a press conference held immediately afterward he added that this was an unprecedented abuse of power.
Kean called it a “temper tantrum” by the majority.
There was confusion as to what status Knapp now had, whether he still would be in office or not. His nomination had been pending for about seven months.
In another press conference held right after the votes, Democratic Sen. Nicholas Scutari defended the move, saying “we can’t allow the Constitution to be circumvented by the governor,’’ which is what Democrats said the governor did with the Rutgers post.
After the vote, Senate Democrats issued a statement: “The Senate has acted today to protect the integrity of the State Constitution. We have a system of criminal justice that empowers county prosecutors to act objectively and independently. The Governor now seeks to establish an Imperial Governorship pre-empting the Constitutional process of Advice and Consent in order to concentrate prosecutorial power in his office.”