From the Blue Jersey Archives: Three Things You Should Know About Anne Patterson

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.

Justice John E. Wallace

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.

Comments (7)

  1. 12mileseastofTrenton

    She specializes in products liability defense work.  Not surprising given a Republican governor.  More interesting is that I read she did “educational volunteer” work.  I wonder if it had something to do with vouchers.

  2. 12mileseastofTrenton

    Not reappointing Wallace, who had only two years to go, was a typical classless and spiteful move on Christie’s part.  Democrats have the votes to reject Patterson.  They need the will.

    Of course, there’s always the possibility that he could then pick someone worse.

  3. Winston Smith

    and does that distinction matter?

  4. deciminyan

    She sounds like Christie’s Scalia.

  5. jdm28

    Why doesn’t Christie just outsource the Supreme Court’s functions to Goldman Sachs?

  6. Rosi Efthim

    Here is the press release from Gov. Phil Murphy on renominating Justice Anne Patterson, sent today (May 31, 2018):

    Governor Murphy to Renominate Justice Anne M. Patterson
    to the New Jersey Supreme Court

    TRENTON – Governor Phil Murphy today announced his intention to renominate Associate Justice Anne M. Patterson to the New Jersey Supreme Court.

    “Today, I am pleased to uphold the practice of reappointing good, fair-minded and qualified justices, regardless of their party affiliation, to our New Jersey Supreme Court. This is a critical tenet of an independent judiciary that I fully intend to fulfill,” said Governor Murphy. “Justice Patterson meets all of the prerequisites, and I am certain she will continue to serve the court and the residents of New Jersey with honor and integrity.”

    “We are gratified that Governor Murphy intends to renominate Justice Anne Patterson for our New Jersey Supreme Court and, in doing so, has restored a 60-year tradition that respects the independence of our courts, as the framers of our 1947 Constitution clearly intended,” said New Jersey State Bar President John E. Keefe Jr. “For the past seven years, Justice Patterson has been an exemplary jurist and legal scholar. She has authored numerous opinions and demonstrated a keen intellect, fairness, integrity and a strong and even-handed application of the law. We look forward to her continued service to the people of our state.”

    Justice Patterson originally was nominated by Governor Christie and was confirmed by the Senate and officially sworn in on September 1, 2011.

    She is a magna cum laude graduate of Dartmouth College, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and is a graduate of Cornell Law School. Justice Patterson was admitted to the New Jersey Bar in 1983.

    A former associate of the law firm Riker, Danzig, Scherer, Hyland Perretti LLP, she served as a deputy attorney general and special assistant to New Jersey Attorney General Peter N. Perretti, Jr. She rejoined Riker Danzig, becoming a partner in the firm in 1992 where her practice focused on product liability, intellectual property and commercial litigation in state and federal trial and appellate courts.

    Justice Patterson has served in several capacities, including as Chair of the New Jersey State Bar Association Product Liability and Toxic Tort Section, as an officer and trustee of the Association of the Federal Bar of New Jersey, a trustee of the Trial Attorneys of New Jersey and served on the New Jersey Supreme Court Committee on Character.

    She was awarded the William A. Dreier Award for Excellence in the Advancement of Product Liability and Toxic Tort Law and the New Jersey Commission on Professionalism’s Professional Lawyer of the Year Award. Justice Patterson was elected to the New Jersey Fellows of the America Bar Foundation in 2011 and is a member of the Dean’s Advisory Council at Cornell Law School.


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