NJ Senate Caves On Court

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TRENTON – Sen. Nicholas P. Scutari said the Senate Judiciary Committee, which he chairs, will consider the nomination of Anne Patterson for a seat on the state Supreme Court.

Gov. Chris Christie originally nominated Patterson to replace Justice John Wallace, the high court’s only African-American and the first sitting justice to be denied tenure.

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The Republican effort to reshape the top court ignited a firestorm of protest one year ago.

“It’s never been done before, and Gov. Christie has now started a dangerous precedent that I do not believe the Senate will allow to stand,” said Sen. Raymond Lesniak after the governor announced that Wallace would not be re-appointed to serve two years before he reached the mandatory retirement age.

Lesniak, a member of the Judiciary Committee who supported Wallace, also declared at the time, “It’s not about this appointee. Justice Wallace has done absolutely nothing to be not re-appointed, and Christie asserting his political will in this manner is a very dangerous precedent.”

Patterson, 52, of Mendham Township, formerly served as a special assistant to the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General of the State of New Jersey, according to her bio at Riker Danzig, a law firm where she is a partner.

If Patterson is confirmed to replace retiring Associate Justice Roberto A. Rivera-Soto, the Governor’s unprecedented move to withhold re-appointment to a sitting justice would leave the Supreme Court without a black or Latino justice for the first time in decades.

“New Jersey’s Supreme Court should represent all of the people. This so-called deal would create a Supreme Court that makes important decisions impacting communities of color — without any representation from any of those communities,” said Frank Argote-Freyre, President of the Latino Action Network.

“The members of the Judiciary Committee will conduct a full vetting of Anne Patterson’s qualifications, including a comprehensive review of her body of legal work, at an upcoming hearing. I look forward to that process,” Scutari said.

The remaining Supreme Court members are: Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, Justices Virginia Long, Jaynee LaVecchia, Barry T. Albin and Helen E. Hoens.

Christie is currently threatening to defy a potential state Supreme Court order to spend more money on public schools.

Christie also threatened to shelve all Superior Court re-appointments until the Senate moved on Patterson, who Sen. President Steve Sweeney was holding off until Wallace’s term would have ended in 2012.


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