Tag Archive: Philip Kwon

Christie Trying to Pack Our Supreme Court

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.  

Hanna & Bauman – Christie’s latest nominees to NJ Supreme Court

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.  

“Lynching” comment out of line, reflects deeper trend

Sen. Kevin O’Toole called Thursday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing over Philip Kwon’s nomination a “lynching.” As Tom Moran has already pointed out, this was out of line. In case anyone needs a refresher, according to Wikipedia, “Lynching is an extrajudicial execution carried out by a mob, often by hanging, but also by burning at the stake or shooting, in order to punish an alleged transgressor, or to intimidate, control, or otherwise manipulate a population of people.” OK? Serious stuff there, that happened way too often for way too long in our nation’s history. It’s like someone saying that “the upcoming election will be a Holocaust for the Republicans.” It’s not something to trivialize.

But there is something broader here too. Look back just a week or two to when Assembly Transportation Chair Wisniewski got subpoena power to investigate the really sketchy seeming Christie patronage going on at the Port Authority.” Republicans reacted by calling it a “witch hunt” (that word was used in the judiciary hearing too) and suggested that Christie himself was already taking the necessary steps (to investigate his own patronage apparently).

Often conservatives accuse progressives of being entitled. But this Governor and the party he leads have started to act with a huge sense of entitlement. They feel that if they can cut deals with the Democratic Legislature on some issues (pen/ben) that means they are entitled to whatever they want, with no oversight, acting like they have a mandate to do whatever they want.

As Sen. Sweeney pointed out in his statement on the court process on Friday:

The governor talks often of how ‘elections have consequences.’ For him, the consequence of the people electing a Democratic Legislature concerned with protecting the integrity of our legal system is now clear. The governor must work with us to put together a balanced tandem of candidates for the Court. The Senate will not consider anything less.

Let’s hope that the message from the Legislature continues to be that Christie doesn’t get what he wants by having his surrogates make outlandish accusations, but rather by genuinely negotiating and making concessions.