Six Years of Political Loggerheads Over Filling NJ High Court Seat

A political stalemate over filling an opening on the New Jersey Supreme Court “has stretched six years,” Philly.com reports in bringing context to a revived dispute in the state. The court’s members are chosen through an appointive system similar to the federal model.

New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney, a Democrat, recently pledged there will be no confirmation hearing for  Gov. Chris Christie’s latest nominee to the high court, Superior Court Judge David Bauman, a Republican whom Christie had unsuccessfully nominated before (see Gavel Grab).

Alicia Bannon of the Brennan Center for Justice, a Justice at Stake partner organization, told Philly.com that “partisanship can also operate in harmful ways in states that use appointments” to select judges, as it can in states where judges are elected. The question, Bannon added, is “can it be contained . . . without interfering with judicial independence.”

New Jersey does not use a judicial nominating commission to screen qualified candidates for their recommendation to the governor for judicial appointment. Such a commission is a central component of legislation proposed to switch from judicial elections to an appointive, merit-based system for picking top judges in neighboring Pennsylvania.