And the political snowball keeps rolling in New Jersey. On Thursday, February 17, 2011, the New Jersey Senate passed SR-105, a resolution urging Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto to resign his seat on the New Jersey Supreme Court.
Last December, Justice Rivera-Soto began abstaining from votes of the state’s highest court, stating that the court as presently constituted with “one Chief Justice, five Associate Justices and a Judge of the Appellate Division selected unilaterally by the Chief Justice,… is unconstitutional and its acts are ultra vires.” ifb senator wss 8 kg
Sponsored by Senator Nia Gill, D-Essex, the Senate resolution states:
“It is the sense of the Senate that the actions of are prejudicial to the administration of justice and constitute a serious violation of the public trust.”
The resolution is among a string of events that have unfolded recently in New Jersey politics, implicating the future of the state’s supreme court.
Last May 2010, Governor Christie announced that he would not be renominating New Jersey Supreme Court Justice John Wallace Jr., the only African-American serving on the court.
New Jersey Supreme Court Justices receive initial appointments for 7 years, and may thereafter be reappointed for life. The governor’s decision marked the first time a sitting justice would not receive reappointment.
To replace Justice Wallace, Governor Chris Christie nominated republican Anne Patterson, a partner at Riker, Danzig, Scherer, Hyland & Perretti, a large law firm in Morristown.
In response to Patterson’s nomination, state Senate President Stephen Sweeny, who served as acting governor during the snow storm of December 2010, stated that the legislature would not give advice and consent regarding Patterson’s nomination until Spring 2012, when Justice Wallace would have left under mandatory retirement.
After Justice Wallace left the bench in May 2010, Chief Justice Stuart Rabner invoked the “temporary assignment clause” of the New Jersey Constitution. The clause allows a senior judge of the lower Superior Court to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court. Chief Justice Rabner appointed Appellate Division Judge Edwin Stern, reasoning that the appointment was necessary due to the Supreme Court’s pressing caseload.