BEACH HAVEN – Gov. Chris Christie said Wednesday he does not believe Senate President Steve Sweeney would have given state Supreme Court Justice Helen Hoens a fair hearing had she been renominated.
Christie, saying he would not subject Hoens to the same kind of treatment previous nominees Bruce Harris and Phil Kwon endured, instead nominated Camden Judge Faustino Fernandez-Vina last month.
While Judiciary Committee member Sen. Ray Lesniak had said last month he would prefer another temporary justice over anyone nominated by Christie, Sweeney had said that legislators were prepared to give Hoens a hearing.
“She only needed two votes from our side,” Sweeney said last month. “We were going to give Hoens a hearing, there was never any question about that.”
But today, Christie was having none of that.
“Do I believe it? No, they haven’t given any of my folks a fair hearing,” Christie said during a press conference in Beach Haven to mark the reopening of a Sandy-ravaged school.
He said no Democratic leaders had said anything to him publicly or privately. “Where were they for the last four or five months? They knew she was coming up (for renomination) in October,’’ Christie said.
“They were going to rake her over the coals,’’ Christie said.
“She is excellent, but I am no longer going to put good people into the meat grinder of a partisan state Senate,’’ he added. “I was not going to let her loose to the animals.”
Partisan politics has been at the heart of much of this ongoing dispute. Lesniak has said he opposes Christie appointees because the governor will nominate justices who will abide by his dictates rather than uphold the Constitution.
However, Christie consistently has said that had Kwon and Harris been approved, the balance of the court would not have shifted to the right. Democrats just as consistently dispute that.
The two most recent nominees – Robert Hanna and Judge David Bauman – were nominated late last year and still are awaiting hearings.
The belief among some observers is that the Senate will have a more difficult time not approving Fernandez-Vina because he already has won appointment to the Camden County bench.