New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's Black gay Republican nominee to the state supreme court has already promised to recuse himself from any marriage equality case. Bruce Harris' premature promise has underwhelmed critics.
Christie explained that Harris, who has lived with a same-sex partner for more than 30 years, felt recusal was appropriate because he has supported gay marriage as a private citizen and an elected official. Harris' concern is understandable, but if the governor's idea of diversity goes beyond window dressing, he should have assured Harris that his recusal promise is unnecessary, and that his perspective is desired.
Conflicts of interest must be avoided, but that doesn't mean judges must mentally erase their personal experiences before deciding cases. Christie also nominated Korean-born Phillip Kwon to the court. Should he recuse himself from all cases involving Asians?
For years, Justice Thurgood Marshall recused himself from cases before the U.S. Supreme Court involving the NAACP - not because he was black, however, but because he had been an NAACP attorney. Eventually, Marshall informed his fellow justices that enough time had passed for him to hear NAACP cases.
Given Christie's opposition to gay marriage, his acceptance of Harris' recusal promise suggests the governor's nomination of a gay man to the state Supreme Court may not have been as enlightened as it appeared. There may be times when recusal would be proper, but Harris' agreement to stay out of any gay-marriage case seems excessive.
New Jersey State Sen. Richard Codey is not impressed by Harris. The former governor and senate president says the blanket recusal is premature and that Harris is probably unqualified, reports PolitickerNJ.
"While I will reserve my judgment on the current nominees until after the Judiciary Committee has had a chance to hear from them, I have serious reservations about Mr. Harris’ qualifications for the Court," Codey said. "He may be an impressive bond counsel, but his resume is lacking any meat on the bone and the Christie administration's lack of in-depth details on his qualifications leaves much to be desired." [...]
"So far, all we know about Mr. Harris, outside of his resume, is that he hasn’t been a partner in his firm, has never argued in a courtroom, and apparently would recuse himself from one of the biggest potential issues that might come before the Court. This does not leave me with much confidence. I will await his appearance before Judiciary, but there is much that needs to discussed and resolved in that time."
Bruce Harris would become the state's first openly LGBT justice ... and the nation's first openly gay Black state supreme court justice. The corporate attorney was elected mayor of Chatham Borough in November. At that time, he became the nation's only openly gay Black Republican mayor.
Harris' 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. Harris would replace veteran Black Democratic Justice John Wallace, who supported LGBT rights and marriage equality.
Never argued a case and never made partner? #Winning ....