TRENTON – Senate President Steve Sweeney and committee chairman Nicholas P. Scutari today announced that the Senate Judiciary Committee will convene Oct. 17 to consider the governor’s nomination of Judge Faustino Fernández-Vina to the state Supreme Court.
Gov. Chris Christie courted controversy in August by choosing the Camden County assignment judge instead of re-nominating New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Helen Hoens. The governor claimed that a Union County lawmaker is largely responsible for his decision after the Star-Ledger‘s Auditor column reported that state Sen. Raymond Lesniak said Democrats should reject Hoens if the governor re-nominated the Republican justice for lifetime tenure.
New Jersey requires justices to be re-nominated and re-confirmed after seven years of service.
The Democrat-controlled Senate has rejected two of his previous nominees and has not scheduled hearings for two others.
New Jersey State Bar Association President Ralph J. Lamparello criticized the politicization of the process. “For nearly 20 years, Justice Helen E. Hoens has served the people of New Jersey with distinction as a judge of the Superior Court, as a judge of the Appellate Division and for the past seven years as a Justice of our Supreme Court,” he said. “She does not deserve to be treated as a political pawn in the battle between the Governor and the Legislature over our Courts.”
“Governor Christie has now twice broken with 60 years of tradition and ignored the clear intention of the framers of our 1947 Constitution to create a strong and independent judiciary, what former U. S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist called the ‘crown jewel’ of our democracy. The clear intent of our Constitution is that judges were to be denied tenure only in limited circumstances, and never for political reasons,” Lamparello added.
“Camden Assignment Judge Fernandez-Vina stands out on the list of uniquely qualified Supreme Court nominees that the most-successful U.S. Attorney for New Jersey has put forth for this Senate to confirm,” said Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean Jr. (R-Union) after the nomination was announced. “Assignment Judge Fernandez-Vina has an impressive track-record that has earned him a pair of overwhelming New Jersey Senate confirmations, appointment to the state Superior Court by a Democratic governor and resounding praise from Chief Justice Stuart Rabner. Fernandez-Vina brings diversity as a Hispanic man who stands to be the only Supreme Court Justice from South Jersey.”
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