Sunday, January 30, 2011

Justice Rivera-Soto Will Not Seek Reappointment to the Court

On January 3, 2011, New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto advised Governor Chris Christie that he would not seek reappointment to the Court when his term expired on September 1, 2011. This announcement is the latest event arising from Governor Christie's refusal to renominate Justice John Wallace for tenure to the Court when his term ended in May 20, 2010. Breaking from tradition, Governor Christie was the first New Jersey Governor in 63 years to refuse to renominate a sitting Justice. This position was consistent with Governor Christie's campaign pledge to "reshape" the Supreme Court.
After refusing to renominate Justice Wallace, Governor Christie nominated Anne Patterson to fill the vacant seat. The Senate President has refused to entertain Ms. Patterson's nomination until May 2012, the date Justice Wallace would have reached the mandatory retirement age if he had been reappointed to the Court. Due to the vacancy caused by Justice Wallace not being reappointed, Chief Justice Stuart Rabner temporarily appointed Judge Edwin Stern (the senior most Appellate Division Judge) to fill the vacancy. Despite previously participating in cases with Judge Stern, Justice Rivera-Soto announced on December 10, 2010, that he would abstain from future participation in cases before the Court while Judge Stern sat on the bench. It is Justice Rivera-Soto's position that the appointment of Judge Stern to the Court violates the State Constitution.
After Justice Rivera-Soto's announcement there were calls from the state legislature that he either resign or be impeached. In response to Justice Rivera-Soto's announcement, Governor Christie issued a statement advising that he will not name an appointee to fill Justice Rivera-Soto's seat until the nomination of Ms. Patterson is entertained.

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