TRENTON – Outgoing Supreme Court Justice Helen Hoens was not faced with certain rejection by the Democrat-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee, the state’s top Senate lawmaker said Monday.
Senate President Steve Sweeney said legislators were fully prepared to give Hoens a hearing before Gov. Chris Christie announced last week he would not renominate the Republican justice. Christie said his decision to nominate a different justice was based on the continued public threats of Democrats – in particular Sen. Ray Lesniak – to “play hardball’’ with his right to nominate justices.
“There was no forgone conclusion,” Sweeney said during a Monday morning Statehouse news conference.
“She only needed two votes from our side,” he said. “We were going to give Hoens a hearing, there was never any question about that.”
When asked whether it was feasible that Hoens would have made it out of the Senate Judiciary, Sweeney said he didn’t know because “we didn’t have a chance to poll our members.” However, he indicated just because she faced a possibly contentious hearing didn’t mean she would not be reappointed.
“I can tell you, I was here when the Republicans brutalized Barry Albin, and I mean it was a vicious attack, probably one of the nastiest ones I’ve ever seen, and he was approved,” Sweeney said.
Last week, Christie nominated Camden County Judge Faustino Fernandez-Vina to the state Supreme Court