NJ Supreme Court Vacancies to Get Filled

May 6, 2011

Governor Chris Christie and Senate President Stephen Sweeney have resolved their year-long dispute regarding filling vacancies on the State Supreme Court. As previously discussed here and here and here, the Governor and the Democratically controlled Senate have been at an impasse to fill the vacancy created by the Governor’s refusal to reappoint Justice Wallace to the Court. In May 2010, Governor Christie refused to reappoint Wallace to a full term to the Court. He in turn nominated Anne Patterson to fill Wallace’s seat. The Senate refused to conduct hearings on the Patterson nomination until the full Wallace term would have expired in 2012. This position was taken by the Senate, as no other governor had refused to reappoint a sitting justice.

During this impasse, the Chief Justice elevated the senior most Appellate Judge to temporarily fill the Wallace vacancy. This resulted in Justice Rivera-Soto proclaiming that he felt the Chief Justice acted unconstitutionally in elevating the Appellate Judge to the Supreme Court and refused to participate in any case in which that judge also participated. Justice Rivera-Soto subsequently tempered his position and said that he would not participate in cases in which the Appellate Judge cast a deciding vote. Due to this position, lawmakers called for Rivera-Soto to immediately resign or be impeached. In January, Rivera-Soto informed the Governor that he would not seek reappointment to the high court. His term will end on August 31st.

In the compromise reached by the Governor and Sweeney, Christie will withdraw the Patterson nomination for Wallace’s seat and resubmit that nomination for Rivera-Soto’s seat. The Wallace seat will remain “open”, with an Appellate Judge assigned, until March. At that time, the Governor will make his nomination for that seat. At that time, Justice Virginia Long’s seat will also become “open” due to the justice reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70.

Erik Anderson

Reardon Anderson represents the interests of businesses, insurance companies and individuals throughout New Jersey and the metropolitan New York City area. Please visit our website at http://reardonanderson.com to learn more about our firm.

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NJ Senate Urges Justice Rivera-Soto to Resign

February 21, 2011

The New Jersey Senate has passed a non-binding resolution urging Supreme Court Justice Rivera-Soto to resign if the Assembly does not begin impeachment proceedings.  As previously reported in this blog here and here, Justice Rivera-Soto has created controversy by refusing to participate in cases in which a temporarily appointed judge casts the deciding vote.  This stems from Governor Christie’s refusal to renominate former Justice John Wallace.  The resolution provides that “it is the sense of the Senate that the actions of Justice Rivera-Soto are prejudical to the administration of justice and constitute a serious violation of the public trust.”

The resolution is only symbolic as the Assembly has indicated that they have no plans of starting impeachment proceedings against Justice Rivera-Soto.

— Erik Anderson, Esq.

Reardon Anderson is a Tinton Falls, New Jersey based law firm which represents the interests of businesses, insurance companies and individuals throughout New Jersey and the metropolitan New York City area. Please visit our website at http://reardonanderson.com to learn more about our firm.


Justice Rivera-Soto Will Not Seek Reappointment to the Court

January 4, 2011

On January 3, 2011, New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto advised Governor Chris Christie that he would not seek reappointment to the Court when his term expired on September 1, 2011. This announcement is the latest event arising from Governor Christie’s refusal to renominate Justice John Wallace for tenure to the Court when his term ended in May 20, 2010. Breaking from tradition, Governor Christie was the first New Jersey Governor in 63 years to refuse to renominate a sitting Justice. This position was consistent with Governor Christie’s campaign pledge to “reshape” the Supreme Court.

After refusing to renominate Justice Wallace, Governor Christie nominated Anne Patterson to fill the vacant seat. The Senate President has refused to entertain Ms. Patterson’s nomination until May 2012, the date Justice Wallace would have reached the mandatory retirement age if he had been reappointed to the Court. Due to the vacancy caused by Justice Wallace not being reappointed, Chief Justice Stuart Rabner temporarily appointed Judge Edwin Stern (the senior most Appellate Division Judge) to fill the vacancy. Despite previously participating in cases with Judge Stern, Justice Rivera-Soto announced on December 10, 2010, that he would abstain from future participation in cases before the Court while Judge Stern sat on the bench. It is Justice Rivera-Soto’s position that the appointment of Judge Stern to the Court violates the State Constitution.

After Justice Rivera-Soto’s announcement there were calls from the state legislature that he either resign or be impeached. In response to Justice Rivera-Soto’s announcement, Governor Christie issued a statement advising that he will not name an appointee to fill Justice Rivera-Soto’s seat until the nomination of Ms. Patterson is entertained.

— Erik Anderson, Esq.

Reardon Anderson represents the interests of businesses, insurance companies and individuals throughout New Jersey and the metropolitan New York City area. Please visit our website at http://reardonanderson.com to learn more about our firm.


Justice Rivera-Soto Will Not Participate in Cases Before the Court

December 16, 2010

On December 10, 2010, New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto (Republican) issued two opinions in which he advised that he will not participate in the Court’s proceedings while a temporarily assigned Appellate Division Judge sits on the Court. The controversy stems from Governor Chris Christie’s (Republican) refusal to renominate Justice John Wallace (Democrat) to the Court. Under the New Jersey Constitution, Supreme Court Justices initially serve a seven-year term. After that term expires, the Governor may then renominate the Justice for tenure, allowing the Justice to serve until the mandatory retirement age of 70.

Justice Wallace’s seven-year term was to end on May 20, 2010. However, May 3, 2010, Governor Christie announced that he would not renominate Justice Wallace. This position was consistent with Governor Christie’s campaign pledge to “reshape” the Supreme Court. In not renominating Justice Wallace, it was the first time in the history of New Jersey’s modern constitution (63 years) that a governor refused to renominate a sitting Justice. Normally, as a matter of course, governors would renominate a sitting Justice even if that Justice was from an opposing political party.

After announcing that Justice Wallace would not be renominated, Governor Christie nominated Anne Patterson (democrat) fill the seat being vacated by Wallace. The democratically controlled Senate in turn blocked the nomination of Ms. Patterson. This in turn created a vacancy on the court. Accordingly, Chief Justice Stuart Rabner temporarily appointed Judge Edwin Stern (the senior most Appellate Division Judge) to fill the vacancy.

Despite previously participating in cases with Judge Stern, Justice Rivera-Soto announced on December 10th that he was abstaining from future participation in cases before the Court while Judge Stern sat on the bench. In his abstaining opinion, Justice Rivera-Soto maintained that it is a violation of the State Constitution to temporarily appoint a judge to the Court simply to fill a vacant seat instead of doing so to maintain a quorum (which is 5 Justices). Chief Justice Rabner responded to Justice Rivera-Soto’s opinion by asserting that it is constitutionally permissible to temporarily appoint Judge Stern to the Court. He further added that Justice Rivera-Soto has no basis for refusing to participate in voting and writing decisions and is failing to fulfill his obligation as a Justice of the Supreme Court.

In the coming weeks, it will be interesting to see how the Executive and Legislative Branch respond to Justice Rivera-Soto’s decision to abstain from future court proceedings. Within the Legislative Branch, there has been discussions concerning whether Justice Rivera-Soto should be impeached for refusing to participate.

— Erik Anderson, Esq.

Reardon Anderson represents the interests of businesses, insurance companies and individuals throughout New Jersey and the metropolitan New York City area. Please visit our website at http://reardonanderson.com to learn more about our firm.