Tag Archive: justice wallace

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

Promoted by Jason Springer- We’ll call this the first installment of: Better know your nominee

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.

Another Crisis due to Chris Christie’s Politicization of the Supreme Court

Associate Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto has escalated the New Jersey Supreme Court crisis created by Governor Chris Christie. You’ll recall the Governor following the letter of the New Jersey Constitution, but not the tradition, used these clauses to get rid of an associate justice:

The Governor shall nominate and appoint, with the advice and consent of the Senate, the Chief Justice and associate justices of the Supreme Court,…

The Justices of the Supreme Court and the Judges of the Superior Court shall hold their offices for initial terms of 7 years and upon reappointment shall hold their offices during good behavior

As this was openly an attempt to politicize the Court and pressure the justices without tenure — Justice Wallace would have to retire soon anyway — Senate President Steve Sweeney has refused to hold hearings on the new appointment, using his clause:

The Governor shall nominate and appoint, with the advice and consent of the Senate, the Chief Justice and associate justices of the Supreme Court,

Given the vacancy, Chief Justice Stuart Rabner appointed a temporary Justice, with this clause from the Constitution:

The Supreme Court shall consist of a Chief Justice and six Associate Justices. Five members of the court shall constitute a quorum. When necessary, the Chief Justice shall assign the Judge or Judges of the Superior Court, senior in service, as provided by rules of the Supreme Court, to serve temporarily in the Supreme Court.

“The panel and the governor have differing views of judicial independence”

Members of the panel of legal experts that reviews nominees to the Superior Court announced yesterday they were resigning over Governor Christie’s decision to replace Supreme Court Justice Wallace as 4 of 7 members stepped aside:

In a letter to Christie, the resigning members of the Judicial Advisory Panel, which reviews nominees to the Superior Court, said the governor’s views are “inconsistent with an independent judiciary.”

“You have expressed publicly a profoundly different view of the governor’s appointive responsibilities,” they wrote. “This was exemplified by your actions and remarks in refusing to reappoint Justice John Wallace to the Supreme Court, a jurist who indisputably exemplified all of the qualifications for honorable judicial service.”

I can’t help but think this is exactly what Christie wants though, because now he can replace them with his own advisors to just approve all the judges he suggests. Christie’s spokesman said they will be replaced in “short order” and they are probably wishing it could be that easy with some other Justices and Judges. The response of the administration didn’t sit well with Senator Lesniak:

“The arrogance of the Governor’s spokesman shows his total disregard for decent treatment of fellow human beings and Governor Christie’s total disregard for the importance of an independent judiciary.

“Any lawyer accepting this position will be saying to the entire bar, lawyers and judges, they are the enforcers of political correctness and judges better watch their step, look over their shoulders, and follow the Christie party line or watch out, because you’ll be next.”

But Senator Bucco wasn’t shedding any tears over the resignations:

“Good riddance to the kangaroo court,” said the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. “They served to knock people out who did not share their liberal view of the judiciary. What’s the lesson? Wearing a black robe does not make you a wise person. I’m so happy they’re going to absent themselves. A gang of elitists.”

The battle over the courts is really the end game because the Governor is looking to replace judges with ones that will uphold his policies. The debate over the Wallace seat continues.

Quote of the Day: Advise and Consent

Here’s the latest from Steve Sweeney on the NJ Supreme Court:

“What I told the governor personally is that ‘I’m advising you and that I don’t consent,’ “…

“The courts have to maintain their independence, period,” Sweeney said. “If I put this nominee up, I’m part of politicizing this court.”

Christie’s actions are said to be “within his rights” but it’s quite clear he has violated the “unwritten constitution” of traditions and interpretations that governed for generations. Once such parts of the “fabric of societ” were a concern of conservatives but those days are long gone. To be a conservative today is to be a radical.

Now, if discussing traditions turns you off, and you’d prefer stats senators discussing the entire episode in terms of lollipops click through and scroll down.

“Be careful how you carry out your task of judging”

Whether or not Justice Wallace is replaced on the court with Governor Christie’s nominee, there are many who believe that a message is clearly being sent. Former Chief Justice Deborah Poritz criticized Governor Christie, saying judicial term limits are there to remove judges who have proven unqualified:

“By doing this through the tenure process, I think the governor sends a different signal,” she said. “The signal is be careful how you carry out your task of judging because that may affect whether you get tenure or not. And that affects the independence of the judiciary.”

Assembly Minority Leader DeCroce was critical of Poritz, but other non-partisan onlookers have been critical as well. The State Bar Association as Rosi noted in the roundup, also weighed in with sentiment along these lines:

I am here to sound an alarm. As we stand at this precipice today, the independence of our courts is in jeopardy.

We have entered a phase when judges of this state may begin to fear political retribution depending on how they decide a case. And the citizens of this state may from this day forward fear their disputes will be decided by partisan political philosophies and not the unbiased application of the law.

And the past president of the Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers of New Jersey, a former trustee of the New Jersey State Bar Association himself was critical of the Governor’s actions and rationale:

What troubles Christie is not Wallace’s qualifications for reappointment; his credentials are impeccable. What the governor finds bothersome, for no good reason, is that the court is not deciding cases in the way Christie would like them decided. So what to do? Refuse reappointment to a deserving jurist and use him as the surrogate for all you dislike about the court, even though the justice was not even on the court when many of the decisions you disfavor were rendered.

Maybe they missed all those good stories about the Governor’s move too. Or maybe they just actually understand the consequences of Christie’s actions.  

In Case you missed it: Christie slammed over decision to replace Justice

The NJ GOP put out one of their “In Case you missed it” releases, highlighting the favorable press they received over Governor Christie’s decision to replace Justice Wallace on the Supreme Court. The release was quickly put up on the NJ GOP website, blasted out to supporters by email and sent out all over twitter and facebook to make it seem like everyone loved what the Governor did. So quickly, I did a search for articles and was able to find the rest of the story, just in case you missed it. Check out these headlines and stories:

Gov. Chris Christie’s affront to the integrity of New Jersey’s justice system

New Jersey Supreme Court’s historic independence threatened by Gov. Chris Christie’s rejection of Justice John Wallace

Christie’s N.J. Supreme Court controversy was unnecessary and politically dumb

Christie’s move to remake NJ Supreme Court was self-defeating

Stile: Christie’s latest battle could end in cease-fire (BERGEN RECORD)

Legislature should fight back, not let Gov. Chris Christie weaken New Jersey’s Supreme Court

Christie’s high court pick a career corporate lawyer (AP)

Alexander: Justice’s denial of tenure: a dangerous precedent (BERGEN RECORD)

N.J. Supreme Court chief justice criticizes Gov. Chris Christie for not reappointing Justice Wallace (STATEHOUSE BUREAU)

Bad call to drop Justice Wallace (GLOUCO TIMES)

Gov. Chris Christie compromises independent judiciary by denying tenure to Justice John Wallace (STAR LEDGER)

Executive activism (BERGEN RECORD)

Moran: Gov. Christie may have picked a fight he’s ‘almost certain to lose’ with N.J. Supreme Court nominee (STAR LEDGER)

That was just a quick search. There is certainly more negative reaction, but I didn’t want to spend more time looking then they did. I guess the NJ GOP wasn’t worried if you missed those stories.

Christie doesn’t want activist judges, just people who will change the direction of the court

It’s pretty amazing that no one in the media has really talked about this. As he rails against the court for being activist saying that Justice Wallace has participated and therefore must go, Christie is the one who keeps talking about changing the court:

Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak said Christie “has been consistent and clear that he wanted to change the direction and philosophy of the court. That was what this decision was all about, and nothing more.”

So let me see if I understand. The guy who wants to make drastic change in the direction and philosophy of the court isn’t the activist, right? Wallace wasn’t even on the court when many of the decisions that the right doesn’t like were handed down. Christie says he doesn’t want people who will “legislate from the bench.” It appears he just ones that will approve his policies when they are challenged in the courts, because we all know they will be challenged. A Bergen Record editorial even called it “Executive Activism.”

On why the media hasn’t looked at the substance of the issue: there’s no foe, no dragon to slay. It doesn’t sell newspapers or get ratings. But the controversy and conflict between the Governor and the Legislature? That’s some exciting news to talk about. I’m not saying the showdown isn’t newsworthy, but the media isn’t telling the full story, which is a disservice to their audience.

Kean Sr. criticizes Christie’s decision to replace Wallace

No, Tom Kean Sr. didn’t criticize the Governor in public today over the decision to not reappoint Justice Wallace to the Supreme Court. But in a powerful column, Senator Lesniak utilizes Kean’s own words to evaluate the actions Christie has taken:

“Judges have to be totally free to make up their minds on a particular case.  They should not have to think how their opinion will affect next year’s election or even their reappointment.  They should simply view the facts of the case and interpret the law.  Accordingly, there has not been a judge since the constitution was adopted in New Jersey who has been denied reappointment based on court opinions or political beliefs.  The day that happens, the New Jersey judiciary will be undermined.  And I was not going to be party to any such event.

Lesniak says that the message Christie sent with his decision to replace Wallace on the court is loud and clear: Do as I say or suffer the consequences! Senator Sweeney also invoked the words of former Governor Kean in taking on the Christie’s actions. For his part, Christie said he did consult with his mentor Former Governor Kean, but decided not to listen to his advice.

Sweeney, Lesniak and Scutari refuse confirmation hearings on Christie’s Supreme Court nominee

The sides are digging in and we truly are headed for a showdown over the courts. Senator Sweeney has said it’s Justice Wallace or no one and that he won’t allow anyone to fill Wallace’s seat on the New Jersey Supreme Court for almost two years, when he would have faced mandatory retirement. Senator Scutari, who would Chair the hearing in the Judiciary committee echoed his sentiments:

“Regardless of her qualifications, she’s not going to get a hearing,” said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Nicholas Scutari (D-Union), whose committee is responsible for vetting the governor’s nominees.

Senator Lesniak offered these comments on the current standoff:

Lesniak says he, Sweeney and Scutari agree that the nomination won’t be heard until the appointment comes up in two years, when he says they will judge that nominee on the merits. If the standoff isn’t resolved by May 20, Chief Justice Rabner can fill the seat for the duration from the ranks of the Appellate court or retired Justices. For now though, the rhetoric on both sides continues to build.

Updated by Jason: We get this response from the Christie administration:

“The Governor has fulfilled his constitutional duties by making a judicial nomination; the Senate’s constitutional duty is to provide ‘advise and consent’ through a hearing for the nominee, followed by an up-or-down vote in the full Senate.  That’s all we ask.  So, we would be surprised if the Senate President is willing to simply abandon the New Jersey Constitution and refuse to consider a qualified judicial nominee.  That would truly be a historic and unfortunate precedent.  

“Also, the Constitution clearly states that all justices of the Supreme Court are appointed to an initial seven-year term – not automatic lifetime tenure.  The framers of our state Constitution did that for a reason, and we have to believe that the Senate President understands and respects that.”

Does anyone find it ironic that after making the unprecedented decision of to not renominate a sitting Justice, that now all of a sudden they are going to worry about setting precedent?