Senate Judiciary Votes Down Christie Supreme Court nominee Phillip Kwon

“… side show



freak show

..  Korean witch hunt …”

Attendees at today’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Supreme Court nominee Phillip Kwon – and those who watched NJTV’s coverage live – got an earful today as Republican members of the committee ratcheted up the rhetoric into the stratosphere unable to sit still as Democrats put questions to Christie’s nominee. Kwon would have been the first Asian American to serve on New Jersey’s high court.

In the end, after a full day of questioning and testimony, the panel voted 7-6 against Kwon, with Senator Brian Stack voting alongside the Republicans.

Blue Jersey maintained a nearly 8-hour Live-Tweet account of the proceedings @bluejersey. We will have video coverage and interviews posted tomorrow, with a first interview with Blue Jersey’s own Senator Loretta Weinberg later tonight.  

O’Toole, whose mother is Korean-born, has been vocal in his support of Kwon in the run-up to this hearing, speaking publicly alongside the something called the Korean American Voters Council, and former Edison Mayor Jun Choi. But today, O’Toole plunged deep into angry vitriol:

“We didn’t have a hearing. We had a lynching. I don’t think this nominee was given a fair chance.”

                        –  Sen. Kevin O’Toole, Republican Whip

Sen. Weinberg, Senate Majority Leader and a member of the Committee, suggested Christie tried to pass Kwon off as an independent, blaming the Governor’s drive to remake the Court in his own image.

She was also apparently unsatisfied with the committee’s findings of his family’s finances, including his wife’s income, which was investigated by federal authorities for suspicious deposits. “I don’t think we got all the real answers, and for that reason I am voting no.”

More, plus the vote count, below the fold.

The vote (Democrats):

Stack: Yes

Weinberg: No

Greenstein: No (sitting in for the vacationing Sen. Bob Smith)

Lesniak: No

Sarlo: No

Pou: No

Gill: No (Committee Vice-Chair)

Scutari: No (Committee Chair)

All 5 Republicans on the Judiciary Committee voted Yes.

Bateman: Yes

Doherty: Yes

Cardinale: Yes

Kyrillos: Yes

O’Toole: Yes

Testimony against Kwon’s nomination ranged from Labor in the form of AFL-CIO to the right-wing Eagle Forum. Sen. Ronald Rice spoke on behalf of the legislative black caucus against Kwon. Sen. Nellie Pou used her time at the microphone to cite the lack of transparency in Kwon’s financial information. Pou said Kwon’s answers “defy logic”.

Also at issue today was Gov. Christie’s clear efforts to shift the high court’s partisan balance. Both Harris and Kwon have been affiliated with the Republican Party. Sen. Lesniak said Kwon couldn’t change his party affiliation by merely changing his party registration, seeing through a poorly-executed effort to remake Kwon in an unaffiliated image.

Voting Yes, Democratic senator Brian Stack cited Kwon’s commitment to public service. “He could make a lot more money with the experience he has.”

After a nearly 8-hour hearing on Kwon, consideration of the other nominee, Bruce Harris, has been held over to another day, at the request of the Governor.  

Comments (7)

  1. 12mileseastofTrenton

    back to Republican in a week or so.

  2. ken bank

    I won’t. In fact, the only people I know who will be celebrating are treabaggers and unreconstructed Loneganistas who have been opposing these nominations from the very start because they don’t have a reactionary track record. They won’t be satisfied with anyone except Michael Patrick Carroll.

    My guess is Christie will appoint a solid mainstream Republican, and quit the pretense of picking someone “independent”. He has every right to do so. With Bruce Harris there will be 2 Dems, 2 Reps, and 2 independent.  Even if we allow that one of the indies should be considered Rep. because they worked in the Christie administration, that means Christie can appoint one more Rep. and still be within the maximum of 4 justices from one party.

  3. zi985

    We all know Christie will retaliate against the Senate Dems for voting down Kwon today.  He will probably find a nominee for the Supreme Court who will do his bidding on the Court but that has a virtually flawless track record and has at least some judicial experience.  This candidate will probably be a Republican so as to avoid the appearance that he’s a fake Independent which plagued Kwon at today’s hearings.  Christie will continue to make the claim that his new Republican nominee would not break the 4-3 majority party rule on the Court because he’ll claim Justice Jaynee Lavecchia is an “Independent.”  If the Senate Dems were to vote down this second nominee it would begin to make the Dems look really bad so the likelihood of one more Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee (other than Brian Stack, a Christiecrat) voting in favor of this new Republican nominee is pretty likely.  Think back to 2005-06 when George W. Bush nominated Harriet Miers to the U.S. Supreme Court, who then withdrew her nomination after the controversy it created.  He then nominated Samuel Alito who was confirmed by the U.S. Senate 58-42 (with 4 Dems voting for him and 1 Republican and 1 Independent voting against him).  The U.S. Senate had a Republican majority at the time so Bush was able to nominate a very conservative Judge successfully.  Christie will probably nominate someone who is a bit less conservative than Alito so that his nominee can get at least 2 Dems on the Senate Judiciary Committee to vote for him/her and at least 5 Senate Dems in the whole NJ Senate.

    Let’s also remember that the current NJ Supreme Court Chief Justice, Democrat Stuart Rabner, will have his seven year term expire on June 29, 2014.  If Christie is elected to a second term he would be able to refuse to nominate Rabner for tenure and appoint a completely new Chief Justice.  Since Christie refused to give tenure to former Justice John E. Wallace, Jr. he will probably inclined to do the same to Rabner, especially after how the Senate Dems treated Kwon at today’s hearing.  

    My guess is that at least one other Senate Dem on the Judiciary Committee (along with Christiecrat Brian Stack) will vote in favor of Bruce Harris at his confirmation hearing in the next week or two.  For one thing he doesn’t have any baggage like Kwon had (with the exception of zero judicial experience).  Also, Harris is currently 61 years old which means that he could only serve on the NJ Supreme Court for just under 9 years (until January 4, 2021).  Compare this to the possible 25 years Kwon could have served on the NJ Supreme Court had he been successfully voted on today.

  4. William Weber (WjcW)

    I hope they reject Harris.

    Almost everyone agreed that Kwon was 10 times more qualified than Harris. If it was the balance issue, Harris was registered Republican and Kwon was independent (immaterial whether that’s actually true). If one pick had to go, it should have been Harris 10 times over.

    If they approve Harris they will demonstrate their hearings really have nothing to do with qualifications and everything to do with politiics.


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