UPDATE by Rosi – May 31, 2018: We just got word from Gov. Murphy’s office that he will renominate Justice Anne Patterson to the New Jersey Supreme Court. While that is an entirely normal thing to do, Murphy’s announcement (which we’ll post in the comments below) entirely omits the backstory how Justice Patterson got to the state’s highest court, and the massive and troubling break with tradition it represented by his predecessor Chris Christie.
In his 8 years, Christie made several moves to politicize New Jersey’s justice system, to reconfigure the Court in a right-wing mold, as he was trying to build a national reputation for himself. Christie complained the Court overstepped its bounds legalizing same-sex unions, ordering towns to build affordable housing and ordering billions in aid to poor public school districts. He did not single out any particular justice for decisions he didn’t like, but in August 2010, he made history taking action against just one. Christie refused to renominate Justice John E. Wallace, at the end of his first 7-year term – the point at which Gov. Murphy now undertakes to renominate Patterson. Wallace was the Court’s only black justice, a moderate, and a Democrat. Christie replaced him with Patterson, who is white, a Republican, from his hometown of Mendham, a Republican donor, and in private practice (more on her history in the repost of Blue Jersey’s 2010 post below). Wallace was the first justice of the NJ Supreme Court denied tenure in more than a half-century since the adoption of the 1947 State Constitution. It left the Supreme Court with 6 white justices and one Hispanic in a state with a 12% black population. Christie’s decision, particularly focused on the sole black on the Court, brought a howl of protest both from the legal community and from Democrats, and made national news, though Christie framed it as restoring Dem-Republican balance to the Court. Senate President Sweeney blocked Patterson’s nomination for almost a year; that stalemate ended only when Christie and Sweeney agreed Anne Patterson would be nominated not for Justice Wallace’s seat but for that of Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto who was planning to step down. Patterson was confirmed unanimously by the NJ State Senate in June 2011.
Like we said, it’s not unusual for a Governor of one party to renominate a justice nominated by a former Governor of the other party. That’s the whole point of the ordinary decision Murphy is making today; but it’s an ordinary move with a extraordinary backstory that’s also worth talking about. As is Patterson’s pre-Supremes history below. As Larry Hamm said, “As a lawyer, she has consistently chosen to vigorously champion the interests of deadly corporate giants against the interests of the people.” – Rosi, May 31, 2018
Promoted by Jason Springer- We’ll call this the first installment of: Better know your nominee – May 3, 2010
By now you’ve probably heard that Chris Christie has taken the unprecedented step of not reappointing a New Jersey Supreme Court Justice. Christie would like to replace Justice John Wallace with Anne Patterson.
Here are some of the cases she’s taken on:
Big tobacco. In 1998, Anne Patterson represented RJR Nabisco and RJ Reynolds who were defendants in a case brought by 13 plaintiffs, many of which were children of people who died from smoking-related diseases. Here’s an example of who she was defending against:
John Lippincott acts on behalf of the Estate of his father, Jesse Lippincott, Jr., who was diagnosed with lung cancer in either January or February 1995, after a history of smoking beginning in the 1950’s. His father smoked Kent and Marlboro brand cigarettes.
She and her colleagues successfully argued before the Appellate Division that the court should deny these plaintiffs the ability to pursue a class action against the cigarette companies. This was in the midst of the heyday of tobacco litigation.
Lead paint. In 2007, Anne Patterson represented DuPont before the New Jersey Supreme Court in a lawsuit by many of the major cities in New Jersey (e.g. Newark, Jersey City, Camden, East Orange, Bayonne) and several counties (Cumberland, Essex, Union) against lead paint manufacturers, seeking costs of detecting and removing lead paint and providing medical care to residents affected with lead poisoning. The Appellate Division had allowed the case to go forward, but the Supreme Court reversed.
Free speech in malls. In 1990, several groups against the first Gulf War sought to leaflet in several malls around the state. The malls, including the Cherry Hill Mall and the Mall at Mill Creek, attempted to require those groups to buy $1,000,000 in bodily injury insurance and up to $1,000,000 in property damage insurance in order to leaflet there. Anne Patterson represented the Cherry Hill Mall and Woodbridge Center as defendants. The Supreme Court in 1994 held that the groups did have a free speech right to petition in malls – especially when both malls that Patterson represented were allowing less controversial events without the same restrictions. Effectively, the Court found that the malls were discriminating based on speech they disliked, and invalidated such discrimination.