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Christie’s Judicial Shuffle Escalates Supreme Court Battle

Ralph J. Lamparello, president of the New Jersey State Bar Association, yesterday called upon Christie and Senate Democratic leaders “to end their war over our courts and to exercise their roles in the judicial appointment and reappointment process in the way the framers of our Constitution intended.”

“Governor Christie has now twice broken with 60 years of tradition and ignored the clear intention of the framers of our 1947 Constitution to create a strong and independent judiciary,” Lamparello declared in a stern rebuke of Christie for declining to renominate Hoens.

“Like Justice John Wallace before her, she [Hoens] has served honorably, evaluating each case based on the law and on the facts before her. Her opinions were thoughtful and well-reasoned, and she always conducted herself with the utmost professionalism. She does not deserve to be treated as a political pawn in the battle between the governor and the Legislature over our courts.”

Lamparello added that “the rhetoric here smacks of political one-upsmanship -- and will continue the slippery slope we began traveling when the governor made the then-unprecedented move of not renominating Justice Wallace for tenure in 2011. The result of today’s action will be further erosion of the independence of our courts.”

Yesterday’s shocking chain of events was set in motion last month, Christie said during yesterday’s Statehouse news conference, when Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee made a “very bold and arrogant announcement” about the upcoming confirmation battle over Hoens’ expected renomination.

Lesniak told the Star-Ledger that “there has to be a price paid” for Christie’s refusal to renominate Wallace, the only African-American on the Supreme Court, and that Hoens, whose husband, former Star-Ledger reporter Robert Schwaneberg, works in Christie’s policy office, was the one who would pay it.

“I told Justice Hoens this morning I’m not going to permit the political bent of the Democrats in the Senate to cast a pall on your otherwise outstanding judicial career,” Christie said, adding that Hoens took the decision “like a professional.”

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