University of Denver

Governor Christie Makes New Waves in Judicial Nominations

Former Manager, Quality Judges Initiative

For the second time in his tenure—and the second time in state history—New Jersey Governor Chris Christie declined to renominate a sitting supreme court justice.  Christie offered two rationales for the decision to pass over Justice Helen Hoens in favor of superior court judge Faustino Fernandez-Vina: his interest in sparing Justice Hoens the senate's likely "political vengeance" in the confirmation process and the need for more diversity on the high court. At least one senator agreed that Hoens' confirmation would have been "a real battle." State judges in New Jersey are appointed by the governor with senate confirmation to a seven-year term and may then be reappointed, and reconfirmed, to age 70.

In 2010, Christie earned the senate's ire by nominating Anne Patterson to the supreme court rather than renominating sitting justice John Wallace, the court's only African-American justice. Since then, the senate has confirmed only one of Christie's five high court nominees. The seat vacated by Justice Wallace, along with a second seat, remain vacant, with temporary judges taking up the slack.