After Governor Christie was so insensitive as to remove the highly qualified African-American Supreme Court Justice John Wallace from the bench in 2011 he should not have been surprised that Senate Democrats took a jaundiced view of his later nominations. They deliberately delayed his appointment of conservative Justice Anne Patterson by over a year.
Christie then proceeded to mask his desire to pack the court with like-minded conservatives when he nominated African-American Bruce Harris, an out and proud gay man who it was announced would recuse himself on a court case that so defined him – marriage equality. Christie also nominated Asian-American Phillip Kwon who it appeared was an Independent in name only and who was unable to remove the cloud surrounding his family’s liquor store finances. Neither nominee passed Senate muster.
Now, with only five of seven members on the Supreme Court, with no African-Americans, no Hispanics and only two Democrats, Christie proposes to add two new members but not an African-American, Hispanic nor a Democrat. “It is unacceptable for the New Jersey Supreme Court, for a decade to come, to exclude one-third of New Jersey’s population by having no African-American and Latino members,” NJ Legislative Black Caucus Chair Essex County Senator Ron Rice said. The caucus joins dozens of organizations, ranging from the chapter of the AFL-CIO to the NAACP state conference, urging senators to reject the new nominations. Also in a state in which there are more registered Democrats than Republicans it is unacceptable to have only two of seven jurists who are Democrats.
In his Supreme Court nominations Governor Christie has been acting too clever by half, particularly, with his continuing claim that his recent nominations are a “compromise.” It is time for him to go back to the drawing board and re-introduce nominees who reflect the diversity and political balance of our state.