Tag Archive: phillip kwon

For Christie, Bridgegate is not behind him

Gov. Christie last evening held a New Hampshire “Town Hall” at Fury’s Publick House which lived up to it’s name when Eileen Sahagian, a  former NJ resident, exclaimed to him, “When I heard about the Bridge Scandal, I was beyond horrified. It reminds me of feudal times … when the king would say, ‘Who cares about the peasants?'” … She was “worried about having a president who has people around him who think that’s OK.” Christie sidestepped the concern by saying “I played no role in the lane closure incident. If they could have gotten something on me, I suspect they would have.”

The question was not whether he played a role but about those around him. Christie has been trying to put the issue behind him. He said, “I am going to stop apologizing for it.” However, he will have difficulty achieving that goal. Investigations continue. The lives of people trail him – those who appeared recently in federal court and those who wittingly or unwittingly were involved.

So far there are only 3 federal indictments. There remains a substantial likelihood that Christie’s close confidante David Samson who once ruled questionably over the NY NJ Port Authority will be indicted. The PA itself has received subpoenas from  the NJ U. S. Attorney, County of NY District Attorney, Securities and Exchange Commission, NJ Select Committee on Investigations (NJSCI) and NJ State Ethics Commission (NJSEC). The NJSCI should want to delve further into whether state laws were broken and seek remedies. Although the NJ Acting Attorney General and NJSEC operate under the authority of the governor, they should also investigate and prosecute where necessary. Also there are civil suits.

For other individuals involved who may be “co-conspirators” go below the fold.


NJ’s Whodunit Procedural: Part III

As with any good whodunit there is often a twist. A judge rules that two defendants who have invoked the federal constitution’s 5th Amendment right against incriminating themselves can not be compelled by an investigative committee to provide documents that might incriminate them. No worries. The tale continues. With an email there is often a copy to another party who is not a target who might produce the damaging document. The investigative committee is and has been receiving documents from numerous sources and is now requesting files from the Mastro Report.

More important, when an individual, such as Bridget Kelly, has put in motion something illegal, she is already subject to being indicted. Her recourse is to blab to the prosecutors to receive immunity. The nasty Mastro Report should provide her added incentive. The legislators retain their role of finding out how and why this happened and then initiating remedial legislation.

Neither Bill Stepien nor Bridget Kelly (whom we wrote about in Part II of this series), who Judge Jacobson absolved from having to incriminate themselves, have escaped the arm of the law. There could be an appeal or revised more narrowly focused subpoenas. While we await their fate, there are other larger than life characters in this whodunit beyond the fold: the “failed general,” the “once fair-haired legislator,” the “Would be Supreme Court Justice member” and “yet another lawyer.” In Part III they are all lawyers who may be in trouble with the law and now have their own lawyers.

What’s Happening Today Tue. 12/03/2013

Events today: Board of State Canvassers meets to certify the results of last month’s general election, noon, in the Statehouse Annex’s Committee Room 5. Communications Workers of America union endorses Councilman Ras Baraka in the Newark mayoral election, 12:30pm at CWA Local 1037′s office in Newark. Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey, 9:15am holds its annual summit, with speakers Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera and union executive Milly Silva, 11:30am, Crowne Plaza Monroe, South Brunswick. U.S. Sen. Cory Booker visits Cumberland County.

Where Are They Today?

Gov. Chris Christie resigned his job as New Jersey’s U. S. Attorney in 2009 to become governor. He brought with him an extraordinarily large number of former staff members from the Attorney’s Office. Who are some of these people and where are they today?

  • Paula Dow: Christie’s first cabinet appointee served as NJ’s Attorney General for less than two years and then was named to a NY/NJ Port Authority post by Christie after his nomination of her as a Superior Court Judge ended in a political standoff with the Senate.

  • Phillip Kwon: Appointed First Assistant Attorney General. In 2012 Christie nominated him to the NJ Supreme Court but the Senate Judiciary Committee rejected his nomination and he also took a job at the NY/NJ Port Authority.

  • Marc Ferzan: Appointed Executive Assistant NJ attorney general. Then after Sandy he was appointed Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Recovery and Rebuilding – “the Sandy Czar.”

  • Ralph J. Marra Jr.: appointed to the top legal post at the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority.

  • Marc Larkins Appointed Executive Director of the NJ School Development Authority Board.

  • Lee Solomon: Appointed President of the Board of Public Utilities and then returned to one of his prior positions as a NJ Superior Court judge.

  • Robert Hanna: Appointed Director of the Division of Law in the Attorney General’s office and then head of the NJ Board of Public Utilities, replacing Lee Solomon, where he remains today. Christie also nominated him last year to the NJ Supreme Court, but the Senate has not acted on the nomination.

  • Stephen Taylor: Appointed Director of Criminal Justice in the AG’s office.

  • Deborah Gramiccioni:  Appointed Director of the Governor’s Authorities Unit, then Deputy Chief of Staff.

  • Jeffrey S. Chiesa: Appointed Christie’s Chief Counsel. Then in 2011 Attorney General, replacing Paula Dow. Then interim U.S. Senator following Frank Lautenberg’s death and until Cory Booker became U.S. Senator. Chiesa is now with a prominent NJ law firm.

  • Kevin M. O’Dowd: Appointed Deputy Chief Counsel, then in 2011 appointed Chief of Staff replacing Richard Bagger. Yesterday he was nominated to be Attorney General.

  • Charles McKenna: Appointed Head of Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, then replaced Jeff Chiesa as Chief Counsel.

  • Michele Brown: Governor’s Appointments Counsel, then in 2012 CEO of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.  

  • Paul Matey: Appointed Christie’s Senior Counsel; in 2011 he replaced O’Dowd as Deputy Chief Counsel.  

    Make of this what you will: A raiding of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Christie creating a “Law and Order” governor’s office, Christie finding comfort with loyal former employees, etc. These attorneys have played key (successful and unsuccessful) roles in Christie’s administration. However, in 2011 Christie with remarkable candor and bravado said, “It’s my agenda, It’s not Kevin’s agenda or Rich’s agenda or Charlie’s agenda, or Jeff’s agenda. It’s my agenda…”

  • Keeping the Best of the Best on the Judiciary

    Whether we like it or not, a fact of life is that the best lawyers are very well paid. Certainly, we would like our state justices to be among the best lawyers in the state. But today’s near-unanimous decision to amend the constitution to reverse a Supreme Court decision regarding judges benefits flies in the face of attracting the best of the best.

    Another fact of life is that judges’ salaries are limited by law. The best lawyers on the state’s courts could all do better financially at a private firm or as lobbyists. Moreover, judges are also restricted from engaging in supplemental employment.

    Now, Assembly members John McKeon, Peter Barnes, and Grace Spencer are working to rectify this situation. They have introduced a proposed constitutional amendment, modeled after the Federal court system, which will allow judges to receive additional income up to 15% of their salaries through outside ventures. These ventures must not pose a conflict or be directly related to their judicial duties. Teaching is one such example.

    As with the Federal system, rules would be established which would ensure that this supplemental employment be unrelated to their judicial duties, and honoraria would not be permitted.

    The compensation received by the State University’s football coach is competitive with that of his peers. By law, we can’t make judges’ salaries competitive with those of other top lawyers. But this proposal helps close that gap and should be given positive consideration.


    Governor Chris Christie: $175,000

    Chief Justice Stuart Rabner: $192,795

    Rutgers Head Football Coach Kyle Flood: $750,000

    County Assignment Judge (typical): $171,000

    Rejected Supreme Court Nominee Phillip Kwon at Port Authority: $216,000

    Sources: APP.com Data Universe, NJ.com

    Correction (10:03 PM). The original article’s third paragraph implied that the bill had not yet been introduced. It was introduced in January and has been referred to the Assembly Judiciary Committee

    When is a Republican not a Republican?

    promoted by Rosi

    The headline of this post is the first line in Matt Friedman’s Star Ledger story looking further at Christie’s “entitlement” to pack the court with Republicans. When Christie nominated Phil Kwon, Friedman reminds us that he insisted Kwon was unaffiliated, even though he had been a registered Republican for more than a decade in New York:

    Then at a news conference on Thursday in which Christie lambasted Democrats for turning away Harris, he first referred to Kwon as an independent. But in subsequent references, the governor called him a Republican.

    “Before I made the nominations, diversity was all they talked about,” Christie said at one point. “Then once I reached the bar of diversity, then they had to change the rules. Because ‘Uh oh, he found two Republicans that are diverse? We didn’t think he’d be able to do that. So alright now we’ve got to change the rules.'”

    Less than two minutes later, he did it again. “I think what happened here is they never thought I would come forward with two diverse candidates who happened to be Republicans,” he said. “And once I ruined their plans, they had to come up with reasons to knock these guys off.”

    And toward the end of the news conference, when referring to Democrats’ delays in holding the hearings, Christie said: “They went, ‘Oh no, he actually found two candidates with diversity who were Republicans. Now what are we going to do?’ “

    The emphasis is mine, but Christie can’t even keep consistent in the same press conference with lies he’s telling at this point and here he let the truth come out loud and clear. But the truth is what’s significant here:

    If two Republicans were to join the seven-member court, there would be four Republicans, two Democrats and one independent, Jaynee LaVecchia.

    While LaVecchia is a registered independent, she worked for two Republican governors – Tom Kean and Christie Whitman – and donated to Republican candidates before she joined the court. To the Democrats, that makes her a Republican.

    Charlie Stile wondered aloud whether this signals Christie won’t reappoint Chief Justice Raber too. And Blue Jersey’s own Senator Loretta Weinberg summed things up this way:

    “I think he slipped and told the truth,” Weinberg said. “The governor usually prides himself about being clear about what he says, and I think most people who listened to that thought he was talking about the two Republicans he had nominated.”

    If the past is prologue, Christie will probably just attack Senator Weinberg and say she doesn’t realize he’s “entitled” to it. He’ll probably try to blame her for nominating the Republicans in the first place.

    Poll Wrap Up: Christie’s Nomination Of Bruce Harris To The Supreme Court

    With only eight votes cast in this poll, it is hard to read much into the results. Five of you thought the Senate Judiciary Committee should reject the nomination and three of you voted in favor of the nomination. The committee hearing to consider Mr. Harris is scheduled for Thursday. Given the recent press reports it appears the hearing will be a cliffhanger. It would be highly unusual if the committee votes down two nominees in a row – Bruce Harris preceded by Phillip Kwon, but it might well happen.

    Some of your comments included:

  •  “It’s a mighty white Court (partly Christie’s doing), and of course we’ve never had a gay Justice. But his decision to recuse himself from cases involving same sex marriage concerns me.”

  •  “Harris is basically an unknown quantity – I’m sure Christie chose him on that basis.”

  •  “It’s the best they’ll get. Keep the powder dry for a future nominee.”

    Personally I consider Mr. Harris’ nomination that of a stealth candidate – one nominated under false pretenses. As an African-American and openly gay individual Mr. Harris appears to be an ideal nominee. However, both Christie and Harris have said he plans to recuse himself on marriage equality, and the New Jersey Legislative Black Caucus says his legal qualifications fall short of the high standard required of the court’s seven justices.

    Regardless of Thursday’s outcome Governor Christie will have to renominate at least one individual to replace Mr. Kwon, whom committee members deemed not to be a genuine Independent and to have unresolved financial issues. Although one can not fault Christie for seeking nominees who will carry out his agenda as prior governors of both parties have done, there has also been a tradition of governors nominating individuals from opposing parties in order to maintain some parity on the bench. As the Court currently has two Democrats, two Republicans, and one Independent, maybe Christie will nominate one Republican and one Democrat, or at least a true Independent, or a non stealth candidate, or even an African-American and openly gay person who is better qualified and does not see the need for recusal. There are various scenarios more palatable to Democrats and more broadly equitable. Regardless, Christie is back to the drawing board after bumbling his Supreme Court efforts so far.  

  • Weekend Poll: Should The Senate Judiciary Committee Confirm Bruce Harris?

    There are now two vacancies on the NJ Supreme Court. The court currently has only five members, of which two are Democrats, two are Republican, and one is Independent/leaning Republican. Governor Christie earlier nominated Phillip Kwon and Bruce Harris. Mr. Kwon was rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Christie has not yet named a replacement. On Thursday there will be a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Christie’s nomination of Bruce Harris to the bench.

    The stakes are high. Christie has already added Republican Anne Patterson to the court. He now has the opportunity to add two more Republicans and to create a Republican majority court with only two Democrats. Matters important to progressives will soon appear before the bench, but Christie has signaled his intention to change the court’s direction.

    As an African-American and openly gay individual, Bruce Harris lends much needed diversity to the court. It has been said that he will recuse himself on marriage equality. He is Republican. He works for the law firm of Greenberg Traurig with experience as counsel for those buying or selling bonds and other lending instruments, but he lacks litigation and judicial experience. He is also mayor of Chatham. Press reports here and here suggest that some committee members are not satisfied with his qualifications and that his nomination will be rejected. What would you like to happen?

    Todays question: Should the Senate Judiciary Committee confirm Bruce Harris’ nomination to the NJ Supreme Court: Yes or No.

    Go beyond the fold to cast your vote, see the results so far, and add your comment.

    The united votes of independent thinkers

    promoted by Rosi

    I love reading letters to the editor, both ones that I agree with and those I can’t come to grips with as well.  But I enjoyed this one from a resident of Chatham in the Star Ledger:

    Without regard to the merits of the case or how our state senators voted on Gov. Chris Christie’s state Supreme Court nominee Phillip Kwon, I was taken by the governor’s comment, “They all followed the political line like lemmings,” in reference to seven of the eight Democrats on the Judiciary Committee voting “no.”What does the governor call the straight party-line votes Republicans have made on the initiatives and bills endorsed by the governor since he was inaugurated? The united votes of independent thinkers?

    That seems to sum things up nicely for the Governor’s case. But how is it everyone following like lemmings, if everyone didn’t actually follow? It seems like the lemmings were the ones who followed the Governor, no? I guess it’s ok if you’re a Christie Republican, just more of that independent thinking.

    News Roundup & Open Thread for Tuesday, March 27, 2012


    Rosi is taking a well-deserved day off from the Round Up. So you’re stuck with me. As Rosi would say, “Deal with it.”

    Chivukula for Congress

    After a decade in Trenton, Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula will seek the Democratic nomination to run for Congress against incumbent Leonard Lance in the 7th District. Blue Jersey broke the news. Chivukula is the chair of the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee and has been instrumental in shaping energy policy in the state. Last September, he granted Blue Jersey and extensive and exclusive interview, posted here and here. Other discussions with Blue Jersey are here, here, and here.

    Camden in the News

    While the Assembly Budget Committee heard public testimony in Downtown Camden, the elephant in the room was the Rowan takeover of South Jersey Rutgers campus. Senator Lautenberg calls for a federal investigation alleging the deal was “crafted to benefit powerful political interests.” Doh!

    If You Can’t Lower the Ocean, Raise the Bridge

    Port Authority asks the Feds for an expedited review process on the Bayonne Bridge project.  Sierra Club is worried about cutting corners.

    Role Reversal

    The legislative budget session is in full swing, with the Treasurer defending the Governor’s wildly optimistic revenue projections before the Senate Budget Committee today, and the Assembly Budget committee tomorrow, while the Office of Legislative Services presents a more realistic view.

    The Supremes

    A short-handed New Jersey Supreme Court will decide whether their “salary” is impacted by increased benefit costs.

    Senator Kevin O’Toole, one of the more vociferous supporters of Governor Christie’s nomination of Phillip Kwon to the Supreme Court, makes the television rounds.

    When asked by Blue Jersey about the re-scheduling of the confirmation hearings for Bruce Harris, one Senate staffer commented that it would happen “later than sooner.”

    Charlie Stile describes the governor as “deflated”.

    Blue Jersey has posted a video archive of the entire Kwon confirmation hearing.

    Preaching to the Choir

    Acting Education Commissioner Cerf expects good days ahead for the education-industrial complex. Meanwhile, will Governor Christie give a Trenton public school the same attention that he gave to a Catholic school?

    More Christie Political Posturing

    Governor drags his feet on affordable health care.

    What’s that Boom?

    For once, the loudest noise in New Jersey isn’t coming from Trenton.



    Sweeney & Weinberg: Statements on Supreme Court Confirmation Process

    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 …