anne patterson

A Beginner’s Guide to How a NJ Lawyer Becomes a Judge (Part 3)

(6/7/12) A Beginner’s Guide to How a NJ Lawyer Becomes a Judge (Part 3)New Jersey’s Supreme Court has maintained political balance since the 1947 Constitution.

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GOP women call for Patterson hearing

GOP women call for Patterson hearing

TRENTON – Three Republican Senators and an Assemblywoman called on the Senate to schedule a hearing for Anne Patterson, who was nominated by Gov. Chris Christie for the state Supreme Court earlier this year.

State Sen. Diane Allen (R-Edgewater Park) said the hearing would cure all the ills of the high court before it heads into a critical stretch early in the new year, especially the hearing of another round in the Abbott school funding case.

“It’s a constitutional issue,” Allen said of the Senate leadership’s refusal to hold a hearing on Patterson, with state Sens. Jennifer Beck (R-Red Bank) and Dawn Marie Addiego (R-Evesham), and Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande (R-Colts Neck) by her side.

Patterson has been nominated for a seat that became open this year when Christie refused to reappoint Justice John Wallace, trampling a longstanding tradition to reappoint justices unless they have become a disgrace to the bench. Wallace was approaching his mandatory retirement age in 2012 – not coincidentally when state Sen. Pres. Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) said Patterson will get her hearing.

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Thirteen judges, including Joe Charles, could get caught in the middle of governor, senate president

The stalemate between Gov. Christopher Christie and Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-West Deptford) over a Supreme Court nomination could mean unemployment for thirteen Superior Court Judges whose terms expire before Labor Day.  Republicans suggest that Christie might not make any new judicial nominations until the Senate acts on his appointment of Anne Murray Patterson to replace New Jersey Supreme Court Associate Justice John Wallace.  Sitting Judges who are not confirmed by the Senate before the expiration of their current term must leave the bench immediately. 

Among the judges on the danger list is Joseph Charles, who spent 22 years representing Bayonne and part of Jersey City in the State Senate and General Assembly.  Charles quit the Senate in 2003 to take a judgeship.  His term expires on August 18.

Judge James Morley, who sits in Burlington County, might be on his way out anyway.  Morley has been in trouble since last year for comments he made at the sentencing of a 45-year-old teacher's aide for having sex with a 16-year-old student and before dismissing animal cruelty charges against a former police officer for allegedly performing sex acts with calves.

During the sentencing of teacher's aide, Donna Goebel, Morley said "But for the defendant's status, there would be no crime here (because) the relationship was entirely consensual," according to the Courier-Post.  He also noted that "It's possible she just wanted to be around someone who was nice to her and got caught up in something she shouldn't have."

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Kudos to Christie for breaching the status quo

As a candidate last fall for the New Jersey governorship he now holds, Republican Chris Christie vowed that if elected: “I will remake the court and I will remake it in this one simple principle. If you [want to] legislate [then] run for the Legislature, don’t put on a black robe and go to the Supreme Court and there won’t be any justices that I either reappoint or put on that court that do that.”

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Not liking it, but intent on protecting process for judges, Scutari digs in for war with Christie

Not liking it, but intent on protecting process for judges, Scutari digs in for war with Christie
Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden)

State Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, liked his relationship with Gov. Chris Christie and enjoyed their discussions, sometimes from opposite sides of the issues.  

But the governor's decision not to re-appoint Justice John Wallace landed with a decided edge - forcing Scutari and the Senate Majority to assume a confrontational pose with the Republican governor, creating what looks right now like an unresolvable impasse as Dems refuse to give a hearing to Christie's choice for justice.

"That's a possibility," Scutari told PolitickerNJ.com, when asked if he would oppose all of Christie's nominees to the bench short of Wallace.

"By all accounts, he's an excellent justice who has had an excellent career as a judge," Scutari said. "I don't shut the door on anything but we're at logger heads right now.

"Throughout these platitudes the governor spoke in justifying his removal of Justice Wallace, he couldn't find a specific case for why," Scutari added. "This is the first time this has happened - that a judge would be removed this way. This is judge who is considered a moderate justice. He wasn't necessarily involved in the school funding cases. He sided with a majority to get rid of the Abbott designation. This is no liberal activist judge."

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Sweeney on Wallace rejection: 'big mistake'

Sweeney on Wallace rejection: 'big mistake'
From left: Sweeney with State GOP Chairman Jay Webber and State Democratic Chairman John Wisniewski.

Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) called Gov. Chris Christie's decision not to re-appoint state Supreme Court Justice John Wallace "a big mistake."

In a telephone interview with PolitickerNJ.com, the senate president said the governor's move to pull the moderate African American Wallace and nominate former state Deputy Attorney General Anne Patterson ranked with Christie's decision not to reinstate the millionaire's tax  as two of Sweeney's biggest differences with the governor throughout the course of Christie's 100-day plus tenure.

"If not higher," Sweeney said. "It's right there with the millionaire's tax.

"Judge Wallace earned this, he worked for it," Sweeney said of the lone African American juddge on the Supreme Court. "This is not an activist judge."

The senate president culled a quote from Christie in which the governor described his ideal judge.

"I want someone who is extraordinarily bright and I want someone who will interpret laws and the Constitution, not legislate from the bench."

"That's John Wallace," Sweeney said. "The justice he's looking for is John Wallace. Faced with the same situation, Gov. Christie's mentor, Gov. Kean, did not play into the hands of the ultra conservatives, but unfortunately, Gov. Christie has."

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Kean backs Patterson nomination

Kean backs Patterson nomination
Credit: Getty Images Photo
Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean, Jr. (R-Westfield)

Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean, Jr. (R-Westfield) today praised Associate Justice-designate Anne Patterson as “an extraordinary person who is eminently qualified to serve on our state’s highest court,” and urged the Senate to move forward with the conformation process.

“I fully support the nomination of Anne Patterson to the New Jersey Supreme Court,” said Kean. “Governor Christie has consistently stated that he believes the Court needs a change. The Governor’s decision was based on the merits, and his constitutional authority to appoint his choice.

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Rivera-Soto is a goner

Gov. Christopher Christie’s decision to dump Associate Justice John Wallace from the New Jersey Supreme Court is bad news for Associate Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto.  Rivera-Soto’s seven-year term is up next year, and unlike Wallace, he has few political allies and an even weaker case to make for a tenured seat that could keep him on the top court until 2023.  If Christie didn’t retain Wallace for another two years, it appears unlikely that he’ll keep the embattled Rivera-Soto for another twelve.

Rivera-Soto was appointed in 2004 as the first Latino on the state's top court.  If the Senate confirms Anne Patterson, Rivera-Soto will be the only South Jerseyan on the top court.

In 2007, the New Jersey Supreme Court censured Rivera-Soto for his role in a 2006 incident involving his son and a teammate on a high school football team.  The court agreed with a judicial conduct panel that Rivera-Soto "engaged in a course of conduct that created a risk that the prestige and power of his judicial office might influence and advance a private matter."  Rivera-Soto still faces a civil suit.

The Supreme Court found that Rivera-Soto used his post to influence a Camden County Superior Court Judge presiding over a dispute involving his son's high school football team. Rivera-Soto is accused of using or allowing "the power and prestige of his office as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court to influence or advance the private interests of his family and his son."

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O'Toole praises Christie choice of Patterson

O'Toole praises Christie choice of Patterson
Sen. Kevin O'Toole (R-Cedar Grove)

State Sen. Kevin O'Toole (R-Cedar Grove) praised Anne Patterson of Mendham, Gov. Chris Christie's choice to be New Jersey's next associate justice.

"I know her and she is incredibly well-respected by the bar," O'Toole told PolitickerNJ.com. "She is an extraordinarily well-qualified candidate."

Christie's selection of Patterson meant his rejection of Justice John Wallace, the only African American on the New Jersey Supreme Court.

"The governor believes Constitutionally it's his responsibility to put the best judge possible on the court," said O'Toole, a Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "The Constitution is very clear."

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With Patterson, women would have majority of Supreme Court seats

Gov. Christopher Christie made history today with his nomination of Anne Patterson as an Associate Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court.  If the Senate confirms her, the state’s top court will have four women (along with Virginia Long, Jaynee LeVecchia, and Helen Hoens), marking the first time in history that a majority of the seven seats are held by women.  But some will see Patterson’s appointment as a step backwards: she will replace John Wallace, the only African American Justice.

New Jersey has had one woman Chief Justice: Deborah Poritz, who served from 1996 (she was named by Gov. Christine Todd Whitman) until her retirement in 2006.  The first woman to serve on the New Jersey Supreme Court was Marie Garibaldi, who was nominated by Gov. Thomas Kean in 1982.  Whitman also named the first African American to the Supreme Court when she picked James Coleman in 1994; Wallace took Coleman’s seat in 2003.

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Wake-Up Call

Morning Digest: August 22nd

Fight of the Week: Donovan v. Pascrell Fight of the Week Bergen County Executive Kathe Donovan v. U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-9) (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ) http://www.politickernj.com/79736/fight-week-donovan-v-pascrell     Paramus mayor's race: Candidates in closely-divided Bergen borough spar over taxes, towing issues PARAMUS - When voters go to the polls in November...

Op-Ed

White House’s Tuition Challenge Being Met in NJ

By MICHAEL W. KLEIN In his weekly radio address on August 16, President Obama challenged colleges “to do their part to bring down costs” and lighten the tuition burden on students.  The state colleges and universities in New Jersey have... Read More >

Contributors

(Asbury Park, NJ) -- There's a word for someone who says one thing and does another: hypocrite.  There's no shortage of 'em in Trenton -- from ... more »
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