Tag Archive: John Hoffman

Poor Acting

For the past two years, New Jersey has not had an Attorney General. John Hoffman was elevated to the post of Acting Attorney General when Governor Christie appointed Jeff Chiesa to the United States Senate to fill the seat of Frank Lautenberg.

The Attorney General is supposed to be the people’s top government attorney, not the governor’s. The Governor has his own chief counsel whose office is in the same State House suite as Christie’s.

Government is based on checks and balances, and in New Jersey the Senate vets the governor’s nominee for AG. But Christie has circumvented the state constitution by leaving Hoffman in the acting position for far too long.

Hoffman’s lack of concern for the people he is supposed to be working for is exemplified by his stubborn defense of the Exxon Mobil giveaway settlement. Instead of defending the governor’s blunder, he should be advocating for the people and the environment in New Jersey.

In many states, the people elect the Attorney General. But that’s not the solution to our problem. With money rather than principle being the prime factor in our electoral process, an elected AG would turn into an auction, with the job going to the highest bidder.

Governor Christie should obey the letter and the spirit of the state constitution and submit a nominee to the state senate for vetting. Whether it’s Hoffman or someone else, the nominee would receive a hearing and be questioned by both parties. Public input would also be part of the process. That’s the way the system is supposed to work.  At least that’s how it should work for a chief executive who respects the constitution and the rule of law.

Environmentalists are given short shrift in Exxon settlement hearing

During this morning’s oral arguments, the Record reports, “Lawyers for Exxon Mobil and the Christie administration touted the benefits of a controversial $225 million environmental settlement before a state judge on Thursday, trying to counter significant criticism of the deal from environmentalists and Democrats in the Legislature.” Acting Attorney General John Hoffman argued for the State, an indication of how important the administration views this matter. Hoffman said, “This is a fair and reasonable resolution.”

After Judge Hogan earlier this month denied a bid by eight environmental groups to testify before him against the settlement, the environmental groups appealed that ruling to the Appellate Division on Tuesday. Environmentalists’ lawyer Edward Lloyd of Columbia Law School requested a stay postponing the case until their appeal to the Appellate Division was decided. Hogan denied the request for a stay.

At this point we are awaiting the Appellate Court decision which if favorable would allow a hearing for environmentalists – much more advantageous than them just submitting amicus curiae briefs. In the meantime the judge said he did not expect to issue his final decision on the settlement itself until the end of August.

Too Big to Sue?

After the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection proposed an eight-billion dollar lawsuit based on Exxon’s despoiling of numerous sites in New Jersey, the Christie administration is pushing through a $225 million settlement – less than three cents on the dollar – ending any future remediation or consideration for Exxon’s pollution.

Today, Assemblyman John McKeon, chair of the Assembly Judiciary Committee, held a hearing to gather facts to try to determine if this settlement is in the best interests of the public.

While such a low cash settlement without much public discussion may seem odd, it makes sense if you look at it through the lens of Governor Christie’s political aspirations. Settling for the low number now, and channeling most of that money into the general fund,  provides Christie with another one-shot gimmick to enable him to boast of a balanced budget, even though that goal is constitutionally required. Waiting for prolonged litigation to force Exxon to pay its fair share would not help Christie, who will be long out of office by the time the lawsuits are settled.

Christie’s AG’s: Too Many, Too Political and Unelected

Update 10:45am: The Legislature’s Bridgegate Committee session has started, Kevin O’Dowd presented a brief opening statement, and is now being questioned.

The importance of the N. J. Attorney General’s position is signaled in the NJ constitution as it is mentioned four times. One particular clause prevents the AG (and LG) from being summarily fired by stating the AG begins a term of office that lasts as long as the governor’s term of office. Christie, however, views the AG through his own lens. The governor now wants to appoint his fourth AG, Kevin O’Dowd, in about as many years. They all have worked for him previously in the U. S. Attorney’s office and two of them in his Executive Office. He provides them “full treatment” service which includes plum jobs afterward. It is no surprise they are attentive to his wishes. Christie’s Chief of Staff Kevin O’Dowd testifies this morning at about 10:30am before the legislature’s Bridgegate Committee. Live coverage here.

There currently is a bill in the Assembly (ACR134) and the Senate (SCR71) which proposes a constitutional amendment to provide for an elected Attorney General – an idea worth considering as only five states grant the governor the power to select the AG. Because of the “full treatment” his AG’s receive it is no surprise that this office continued fighting in court to prevent same-sex marriage, defended Sandy practices, ignored Bridgegate, and used “gun-buybacks” as its main response to a call for new gun legislation. Our powerful governor also appoints prosecutors, judges, top public defenders and the head of the State police, which seems eerily similar to a “Police State” – all under the governor’s direction. All political and none elected.  

NJ Attorney General to State Police: Stop photographing Christie Town Hall critics

It seems that even Christie’s Acting Attorney General’s got his number. Acting AG John Hoffman just issued an order to cease photographing the governor’s critics at town halls “for security or any other purposes”. Or any other purposes? Team Christie wants you to think that after 4 years of town halls with little visible security, the sudden photographing of protesters by police dressed as civilians (or the ‘wanding’ is security-related. Funny how it all started as soon as critical mass was reached on Christie scandals, investigations of abuse of power and funds, and his failure to answer questions. As soon as those questions broke into his formerly tightly-controlled show-like events. Hoffman may or may not have Christie’s number. But he knows what won’t fly.

ACLU-NJ is concerned attendees “be able to express their viewpoints without having to fear police officers photographing them and creating political dossiers on them. And Sen. Loretta Weinberg calls it a “Nixonian tactic” that had the effect of an “act of political intimidation.” They’ve got Christie’s number, too. Here’s AG Hoffman’s statement:

“The State Police is responsible for the safety and security of the Governor and the public at town hall meetings. In doing so, the State Police are careful to guarantee that First Amendment rights are respected and the public – whether expressing positive or negative sentiments toward the Governor and his policies – have ample opportunity to make their positions known. That said, the Colonel and I have instructed the State Police to no longer photograph at these events for security or any other purposes.”

Christie’s next town hall is tomorrow morning in Flemington. Doors open at 9am.

NJ Supreme Court Denies Cert in Challenge to Christie’s Special Election Timetable

The New Jersey Supreme Court has denied certification to a challenge to Gov. Chris Christie’s timetable for a special election to fill the U.S. Senate seat of the late Frank Lautenberg.

Their decision means the Appellate Division’s ruling that the Governor’s special election scheme is not illegal and stands as the final judicial determination on the merits of the Democratic plaintiffs’ claims. The seat is currently held by Christie’s appointment by Republican Jeff Chiesa, who was sworn in June 10 and will remain in the seat until he is replaced by election.

Since he became governor, lawyer Chris Christie has distinguished himself – and generated national news – by politicizing the NJ Supreme Court, a court the people should be able to expect to be above partisan politics. The effect has been to diminish the integrity of the court, and its independence. Since Christie made national news by failing to renominate Justice John Wallace – as every governor has with every justice seeking renomination since the NJ Constitution was adopted in 1947 – it is not hard to wonder if there’s fear in the Court that a politically maneuvering Governor Christie would punish a justice for going against his wishes when it comes time for renomination. One can only speculate.