Lesniak Statement On Patterson Vote

Senator Says Nomination Undermines Integrity, Independence of Judiciary

TRENTON – State Senator Raymond J. Lesniak, D-Union, issued the following statement today regarding his vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee on the nomination of Anne M. Patterson to be an Associate Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court:

“I will be casting a no vote on Governor Christie’s nomination of Ms. Patterson to the New Jersey Supreme Court.

“When Governor Christie did not re-appoint Justice John Wallace, he undermined the independence of the entire judiciary by interjecting politics into the re-appointment of a sitting judge. He also did an injustice to Justice Wallace, for as Chief Justice Rabner said, ‘Justice Wallace has earned respect and admiration for his more than thirty years as a municipal court judge, trial and appellate judge, and Justice of the Supreme Court. He is an intellectually honest, wise, and independent thinker, a fair-minded jurist, a gifted, thoughtful writer, and a model of integrity and character. His exemplary and honorable record speaks for itself, and his departure is a loss to the Judiciary.’

“Governor Christie’s brazen act, which was condemned by a wide array of respected jurists and members of the bar and former governors and attorneys general, could not have been done alone. In Anne Patterson, Governor Christie found a willing partner to displace Justice Wallace and undermine the integrity and independence of New Jersey’s courts.

“If Anne Patterson is confirmed to the New Jersey Supreme Court, every decision she makes that has a tinge of politics associated with it – and there will be many – will be subject to the question of where is her loyalty: to the independence of the judiciary and the Constitution of the State of New Jersey, or to the political views of Governor Christie.

“If Ms. Patterson were nominated to the Superior Court, I would examine her credentials, and cast my vote solely on that evaluation. At least if she were nominated to a lower court, her opinions would have some level of scrutiny through the appellate process. But her opinions, as an Associate Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court, will not be subject to review by any other court, absent a question of federal law.

“That is not good. And that is not something I can support.

“I am also troubled that the Supreme Court of the State of New Jersey will not have a Hispanic or African-American member. Our state is blessed with a wide diversity of world cultures and with attorneys of the highest caliber from those cultures. To ignore these candidates for nomination to the New Jersey Supreme Court is also wrong.

“For these reasons, I will vote no.”