Yesterday’s explosive Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, which ended with a 7-6 rejection of Gov. Christie’s nominee Phillip Kwon and a string of incendiary words from some of the committee Republicans, brought out an altogether expected burst of bluster from the Governor, who called the hearing a “circus”.
After all the sturm und drang, it’s important not to lose the substance of the objections raised in yesterday’s questions and answers. There were serious issues at issue for the committee, as two statements released today by Senator Loretta Weinberg, Senate Majority Leader, member of the Judiciary Committee and also of the Blue Jersey community, and Senate President Steve Sweeney, who was present for the vote.
What did Weinberg & Sweeney say? Jump with me …
“What the Governor failed to understand is that the Senate Judiciary Committee has a serious responsibility in confirming nominees to the state’s highest court. This is a responsibility we take seriously. The court has a tradition and history of partisan balance and ideological fairness that the Governor seems intent on violating. He has a record of attacking the courts and denigrating judges when he disagrees with their decisions and he’s made no secret of his desire to reshape the Supreme Court to his own liking. It’s not Chris Christie’s court, it’s the New Jersey Supreme Court. The state would be ill served for generations to come if he is allowed to pack the court with ideological judges with an agenda that would turn back the clock on mainstream values. He can’t be allowed to turn the New Jersey Supreme Court into a political entity for the sake of his political agenda.”
– Loretta Weinberg
“The governor may be entitled to his own nominees for cabinet posts, but we will not allow him to pack the Supreme Court. There are still two open seats. The governor talks often of how ‘elections have consequences.’ For him, the consequence of the people electing a Democratic Legislature concerned with protecting the integrity of our legal system is now clear. The governor must work with us to put together a balanced tandem of candidates for the Court. The Senate will not consider anything less.”
– Steve Sweeney
For all the Governor and his representatives in the legislature have carried on about the nature of questions addressed to nominee Kwon, it’s valuable to remember the awesome power the judicial branch holds, and how seriously both the executive and legislative branches must be in nominating and confirming justices. Christie knows that power well, or he wouldn’t be trying to stack the high court with a GOP partisan advantage, perhaps under the guise of much-wanted diversity. After all the theatrics of yesterday’s hearing, and all the stomping around of Christie’s legislative minions, it still remains that potential Supreme Court justices were, and should be, questioned seriously.
Both Weinberg and Sweeney, and the aggregate questions raised to the nominee yesterday, signal that consideration of Supreme Court nominees will be taken seriously, whether the Governor likes it or not. As it should be.