Christie's Supreme Court Nominees Set To Face Senate Committee

WNYC News — Tuesday, March 20, 2012

By Nancy Solomon

New Jersey Democrats say they will rigorously question Governor Chris Christie's two nominees to the state supreme court on Thursday.

If confirmed, Bruce Harris, 61, would become the first openly gay justice. He is the mayor of Chatham, a finance lawyer and a registered Republican.

While Phillip Kwon, 44, would become the first Asian-American on the state's highest court. He was a registered Republican in New York before moving to New Jersey last year. He also worked under Christie at the federal prosecutor's office in Newark.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hear testimony on the nominees on Thursday before it is expected to vote that same day on whether to forward the nominations onto the full senate.

Traditionally, New Jersey governors have strived to maintain a political balance on the court. On Tuesday, a large number of groups in New Jersey held a press conference to announce their opposition to the nominees. They argue that Christie is trying to remake the court to overturn mandated funding to low-income school districts and affordable housing requirements.

"It's never been true that a governor has appointed people to the court just solely based on their position on one or two issues," said Dena Mottola Jaborska of New Jersey Citizen Action.

The leading Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gerald Cardinale (R-Bergen) said he supports both Kwon and Harris. The nominees will be fair justices who will follow the law, rather than make it, he said. He did acknowledge that New Jersey governors have abided by an unwritten rule to maintain balance on the court, but he's not concerned that these nominees might tilt that balance.

"No, I would hope that it tilts the court in terms of responsibility to the law," Cardinale said.

Christie nominated Harris and Kwon in January.

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