Tag Archive: Executive Power

Court overturns Christie’s attempt to expand executive power, reinstates COAH’s independent board

promoted by Rosi

Last Thursday, the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey invalidated Gov. Christie’s abolition of the Council on Affordable Housing, ruling that New Jersey’s State Constitution and statutes do not allow Gov. Christie to unilaterally abolish independent agencies.  

I’d previously outlined the case in a post here, shortly after oral argument on February 15.  As I mentioned in that post, if the court had held that the Governor in fact had the power to abolish the boards of independent agencies, “then every time a board member of an independent agency makes a decision, she will be afraid of being fired if she disagrees with the Governor, the exact opposite of the intent of such agencies. No independent agency really would be independent.” The Court agreed, finding that only the Legislature, not the Governor, has the power to reorganize independent agencies.

The Court’s reasoning, in the decision available here,  followed the conservative modes of legal reasoning that the Governor claims to believe in, following a careful statutory and constitutional reading. The Court relied on quotes from Associate Justice Antonin Scalia on the proper separation of powers in the original meaning of the Constitution to reject Governor Christie’s argument that the constitution gave him unlimited power to change the structure of state government, stating that “While the framers of our Constitution intended to create a strong executive in the office of Governor (perhaps the strongest in the United States), they also recognized the need to insulate functions and agencies from executive control.”

More below…

108 days

That’s how long Chris Christie managed to govern before a state appellate court had to scold him for a greedy executive power grab.

Earlier today the court ruled that Christie overstepped his authority when he issued an executive order applying pay-to-play regulations to public sector unions. In a per curiam decision, the court held that Executive Order No. 7, one of eight Christie signed on his first day in office, “is so fundamentally incompatible with our existing laws and statutes as to impair the ‘essential integrity’ of the constitutional powers of the Legislature.”

In short, the court reminded Christie that, even though he was elected governor last November with 48.75% of the vote, he is not entitled to make his own laws. If Christie wants to limit campaign contributions of public employee unions, he can ask the legislature to pass new legislation to that effect.

The governor seems to have learned well from his former boss, who aggressively pushed to expand and abuse the power of the president. Christie, like Bush, possesses a seemingly endless supply of arrogance. He will attempt to abuse his power again, even though New Jersey’s governor is already one of the most powerful state executives in the nation.

Fortunately, we also have a state judiciary that is willing to rebuke the governor when he oversteps his authority—at least for now. But we may not in the future. Christie will be able to pick as many as four judges to the seven-member Supreme court. Don’t be surprised if the Governor takes another page from the Bush playbook by nominating judges who he can count on to accede to his executive power grabs. Christie may figure that if he wins the judiciary, the legislature won’t matter anymore. Legislative Democrats should closely scrutinize all of Christie’s judicial appointments, rejecting them where appropriate, lest the governor’s executive power grabs more often go unchecked.

Christie: It’s Good to Be the King

Promoted from the diaries by Rosi

Did Chris Christie just take the position that he can shut down any of the state’s administrative agency, and ignore any state regulation, if he so chooses?

Looks that way. In an Executive Order issued today about COAH, Gov. Christie ordered the agency to cease operating while an appointed task force comes up with a set of new housing policies. There doesn’t seem to be any legal justification for doing so other than saying that he is exercising the New Jersey Constitution’s requirement that he “faithfully execute the laws” of the State. http://www.state.nj.us/infoban…

COAH is an independent government agency that the Legislature created to implement state housing policy, with a board that has required bipartisan balance and is subject to Gubernatorial appointment and Senate confirmation. That agency has adopted regulations subject to the normal public process of notice and comment.

Instead, (a) the agency is now being entirely shut down (or at least put on hold) and the Governor is in effect refusing to enforce its regulations; and (b) new policies are being created by a group of people different from the board required by the Legislature – a group that is not likely to be so bipartisan, that the Governor may appoint and remove at will, and that they might try to claim are not subject to the normal requirements for public meetings, etc.

Sounds like Gov. Christie is borrowing a page from the Bush playbook – remember the Cheney energy task force? Other assertions of “executive power”? At least we don’t have a State Department (ok, we kind of do, but you know what I mean).

Christie’s reasoning in today’s Executive Order could apply equally to any agency. Perhaps this is Christie’s opening salvo for other areas of government. Perhaps the regulatory red tape task force will recommend that the Governor shut down parts of DEP by fiat, or cut pesky health and safety or civil rights requirements without dealing with the normal legal processes.