Can't say this was unexpected. The New Jersey Senate Judiciary Committee has rejected Gov. Chris Christie’s nomination of the nation's only Black gay Republican mayor to the state Supreme Court. Chatham Borough Mayor Bruce Harris would have become the state's first openly gay Supreme Court justice and the nation's only Black openly gay supreme court justice.
Harris was turned down on a 7 to 6 vote. Only one Democrat supported his confirmation. The panel reiterated concerns about Harris' lack of litigation experience and over-willingness to recuse himself from cases involving gay rights. The defeat is "another blow to the governor’s attempt to reshape what he has criticized as an overly liberal and activist institution," reports The New York Times.
His nomination in January was well-received by gay rights groups and by Democrats as a welcome move for diversity on the court, particularly as Mr. Christie, a Republican, was resisting the Legislature’s effort to legalize same-sex marriage.
But at a Judiciary Committee hearing on the nomination on Thursday, Democrats, who hold the majority on the panel, argued that Mr. Harris lacked the appropriate legal experience. A lawyer working primarily on lending and public finance transactions at Greenberg Traurig, a large national firm, he failed to make partner, and by his own admission on Thursday he has almost no courtroom experience. [...]
Under questioning, he acknowledged that there was little in the way of writing that they could examine to evaluate the caliber of his legal thinking. He had rarely even appeared in court, except, he said, to do some pro bono work on drunken-driving cases
On the recusal issue, Sen. Christopher Bateman (R-Somerset) came to Harris’ defense, saying a court ruling requires judges to recuse themselves on some matters. But when Harris said he wasn’t aware of the ruling, Sen. Nia Gill (D-Essex) said she was even more troubled. "That’s why your recusal is more disturbing — because you’re not a judge and you have already actively taken yourself out of the process," Gill said. "Is your recusal political?"
Harris calmly replied, "My decision to recuse myself on same-sex marriage is no political calculus." He said that although he could be impartial in deciding such cases, he didn’t want to give the public the opportunity to question that impartiality because he had advocated for same-sex marriage in 2009.
Harris’ defeat is the second setback for Christie in the past two months. First Assistant Attorney General Phillip Kwon was also rejected two months ago on a 7-6 vote .
Last week the entire New Jersey Black Legislative Caucus went on the record to oppose Harris' nomination. The group of 17 Black lawmakers includes New Jersey Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver and Sen. Nia Gill, longtime gay allies and leaders in the Garden State's push for equal marriage. Christie vetoed New Jersey's marriage equality legislation on February 17. Democratic legislative leaders have vowed to override the veto by January 2014.
Today''s vote comes almost two years after the Republican governor infuriated Democrats and minorities by replacing the court's only Black justice with a white Republican. Justice John Wallace, who was a Democrat, supported LGBT rights and marriage equality. Wallace had two years to go before reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70.
You May Have Missed ..
NJ's Black Legislators Oppose Harris
REPORT: Gay NJ SupCo Nominee Will NOT Be Confirmed
Hearings Begin for Bruce Harris
Hearings Scheduled for Gay NJ Supreme Courtt Nominee
Gay NJ SupCo Court Nominee Criticized for Recusal Promise
Gay NJ Supreme Court Nominee to Recuse Himself on Marriage
Christie Nominates Black Gay GOP Mayor to NJ Supreme
NJ Gov Christie Ousts State's Only Black Supreme Court Justice