As Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg notes, Christie announced two nominees – Robert Hanna and David Bauman – to the NJ Supreme Court today. Weinberg, of course, is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which holds the power to confirm or deny these nominees. Star-Ledger quotes Christie as discussing the nominees with Weinberg’s Senate leadership partner, Senate President Steve Sweeney, for two months. Christie is denying any dealmaking with Sweeney.
Christie has often drawn on former underlings of his tenure as US Attorney for promotion to plum jobs; Hanna was already serving in the civil division there for 12 years before Christie was appointed US Attorney by President George W. Bush. Christie named Hanna BPU president about a year ago. Prior to that, he was Director of the NJ Division of Law (a Christie appointment as governor-elect). Before that Hanna was with the politically-connected law firm of Gibbons P.C. (where Christie pal Bill Palatucci just landed as special counsel after his so-very-quiet exit from his privatized halfway house business, not long after becoming a named defendant in a wrongful death suit, and the subject of both a New York Times special investigation and NJ legislative hearings).
Hanna, 54, is unaffiliated, says Christie. Bauman is a registered Republican.
Christie, whose efforts to politicize New Jersey’s courts are obvious to anyone paying attention, hoped to fully stock the high court with Republicans. That effort was tested earlier this year with his nominations of Philip Kwon and Bruce Harris. Harris is a Republican, Kwon an unaffiliated voter. But both were rejected by the NJ Senate Judiciary Committee on the basis of both partisan balance (Kwon was a longtime member of the GOP before moving to NJ) and qualifications. Both have now been farmed to jobs at the Port Authority of NY/NJ, something Christie can and does make happen for those needing a soft landing.
Like Kwon/Harris, the Bauman/Hanna nominations have an attractive component of diversity to offer the high court. If confirmed, Bauman would be the first Asian American justice to serve the NJ Supreme Court; he was the first appointed to the Monmouth County Superior Court just four years ago.