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Poll: What's the Best Way to End Standoff in State Supreme Court?

Playing tit-for-tat with the state's highest court is bad for everyone -- especially the people who call Jersey home

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Gov. Chris Christie and the Democrats in the state Legislature are at a standoff when it comes to nominating justices to the New Jersey Supreme Court.

Christie has made no secret of the fact that he wants to remake the court in his image, by appointing men and women who share his political agenda. The Dems want to keep to an unwritten tradition that dates back to 1947 that no more than four of the seven justices can be from the same party, thus helping to ensure bipartisan balance.

The dispute began in 2010 when Christie refused to reappoint John Wallace, the lone African-American on the court and a Democratic nominee. The Dems responded in kind by blocking the appointment of one Republican and one Republican-leaning independent. They also have refused to consider two other of the governor's nominees.

This week the governor decided not to [link: Associate Justice Helen Hoens, a Republican who has been loyal to his agenda, saying he didn’t want to throw her into the partisan fray. Instead, he nominated a Hispanic Republican, Superior Court Judge Faustino Fernandez-Vina. That move puts Democrats in a double bind: They can either acquiesce to Christie's wishes or turn their back on a Hispanic nominee.

How should New Jersey's political representative's resolve this standoff?

  • Christie should be allowed to nominate who he wants and the Democrats should only veto the appointment if the nominee is unqualified. He is the governor, after all.

  • The Democrats should stick to their guns until Christie agrees to follow the unwritten tradition. The balanced court was a national model that is being destroyed by partisanship.

  • The Democrats should approve Fernandez-Vina; it’s a Republican replacing a Republican. Maybe then Christie will negotiate with the Democrats and find a way out of this mess.

  • Handle the situation as they do at the federal level. It's understood that the chief executive will choose appointees from his own party. When the governorship changes hands, so will the courts.

  • The situation is so poisoned by party politics that we should go the whole way: Let the people elect judges!

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