Christie and Sweeney announce deal on Supreme Court nomination

TRENTON – Gov. Chris Christie announced Wednesday his intention to re-nominate Chief Justice Stuart Rabner to the state Supreme Court.

The governor also announced Lee Solomon will be appointed to the state’s high court after a years-long battle between the administration and the Democratic-controlled Legislature over the issue of judicial nominations rolls on.

“As all of you know, we have had a really vigorous and at times heated discussion about nominations to the supreme court over the past four years. And during that period of time we have traded opinions and traded disagreements,” said Christie, adding there has been an ongoing effort behind the scenes to find a compromise on the issue.

“And today we find that common ground with Chief Justice Rabner and Justice Solomon,” he said. “I am really pleased to be here today.”

Senate President Steve Sweeney stood by the governor’s side during the Statehouse news conference.

“We worked together to get that done and I appreciate that,” said Sweeney, despite an existing vacancy and one of Christie’s nominees to the Supreme Court allowed to expire at the end of the last legislative session.

The deal was met with delight from Statehouse Democrats.

“I commend both Gov. Christie and Senate President Steve Sweeney for reaching this accommodation,” Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-20), an outspoken Christie critic on issues surrounding the state’s judiciary, told PolitickerNJ.

The lawmaker suggested controversy surrounding the George Washington Bridge lane closures, which has engulfed the administration, could have played a part in allowing a judicial deal to be struck.

“Maybe Gov. Christie is becoming a kinder, gentler person … in the wake of Bridgegate,” he said, adding, “It’s something that I hoped for.”

Democratic lawmakers, who have hung Christie’s appointments to the state Supreme Court in limbo since the ousting of former Justice John Wallace, lauded the announcement as one that will “maintain an independent court,” said Sweeney.

“I’ve said from day one that I would fight to maintain the integrity of our state’s courts,” Sweeney said in a statement. “While Justice Wallace was a victim of that struggle, Chief Justice Rabner will continue to serve the people of New Jersey as a rational voice on the court.”

Solomon succeeded Assignment Judge Faustino J. Fernandez-Vina, who Christie appointed to the state Supreme Court late last year.

“Judge Solomon is an experienced leader … [who] has earned the admiration and respect of collegous across various disciplines for his ongoing efforts to ensure that service to the public is responsive and efficient,” Rabner said in a statement announcing Solomon would lead the Camden Vicinage beginning Nov. 20.

Solomon was first appointed to the bench in January 2006 by Gov. Richard Codey. In 2010, Christie appointed him to serve as president of the Board of Public Utilities.

In 2002, then-U.S. Attorney Christie named Solomon deputy U.S. attorney for the southern vicinages of New Jersey.

Solomon was appointed to the General Assembly in February 1991 to fill an unexpired term and who was elected to full terms in 1991 and 1993. Solomon lost his Assembly seat in 1995 to current Majority Leader Lou Greenwald.

While serving in the lower chamber, Solomon was a state lawmaker who took up the cause of law and order, introducing dozens of bills that took a hard line against criminals or sought to protect the victims they preyed upon.

Among his efforts to tamp down crime were measures that increased penalties, restricted bail, eased limits on searches and seizures, required greater supervision of some parolees and notification to their victims upon their release, and provided money for community policing effort.

Christie and Sweeney announce deal on Supreme Court nomination