New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has nominated the nation's only openly gay Black Republican mayor to the state’s highest court. Christie has nominated 61-year-old Bruce Harris, who was elected mayor of Chatham Borough in November, reports the Star-Ledger. If confirmed to the New Jersey Supreme Court, Harris would become the state's first openly LGBT justice ... and the nation's first openly gay Black state supreme court justice.
The appointment comes a year and a half after the Republican governor infuriated Democrats and minorities by replacing the court's only Black justice with a white Republican.
Christie nominated [Harris and] Phil Kwon, who worked under Christie when he was U.S. attorney. They would replace former Justice John Wallace, who Christie declined to reappoint in 2010, and Justice Virginia Long, who faces mandatory retirement next month.
Christie has stressed that he wants to remake the Supreme Court, which he blames tying his hands on hot button issues such as funding for poor school districts and affordable housing.
In 2010, Christie sparked a firestorm when he declined to re-nominate Justice John Wallace, Jr. Senate Democrats, infuriated by the unprecedented move, refused to consider his replacement for the seat, Anne Patterson, for a year. Eventually, Patterson was sworn in to replace Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto, who declined to seek re-nomination, and Wallace’s seat has remained vacant. It also sparked criticism of Christie because, after Wallace, an African-American left and Soto retired, there were no minority members left on the Supreme Court.
Bruce Harris is a 30-year resident of Chatham and has served on various boards and commissions for 13 years, reports the Daily Record. Harris also served two terms as a council member.
Harris becomes the latest openly LGBT justice appointed to state high courts. In May 2011, Barbara Lenk became the first openly gay judge to serve on Massachusetts' highest judicial body. Colorado Deputy Attorney General Monica Marquez became the first Latino and the first openly gay jurist on that state's high court in December 2010. Judge Sabrina McKenna was confirmed to the Hawaii Supreme Court in February 2011.
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