By Art Gallagher
Former congressional candidate Anna Little told a meeting of the Highlands Republican Club that the composition of the New Jersey Supreme Court is unconstitutional and “we do not have a Chief Justice as far as I am concerned.” She said she would file suit to challenge the new congressional district map if the court continues to have a vacancy when and if Chief Justice Stuart Rabner appoints a tie-breaking vote to the redistricting commission.
“Governor Christie did not reappoint Judge Wallace, who is on hold-over status,” said Little, “Senator Sweeney won’t approve Wallace’s replacement because Wallace is a Democrat.”
Justice John Wallace left the court in May of 2010 as a result of Governor Christie declining to reappoint him. Democrats have charged that Christie is tampering with the independence of the judiciary. Senate President Steve Sweeney has refused to hold hearings on Christie’s nominee to the court, Morris County Attorney Anne Patterson.
In an opinion issued in December, Associate Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto asserted that the Chief Justice Rabner does not have the authority to appoint a temporary justice to fill the vacancy unless necessary to fill a quorum on the court. Rabner appointed Appellate Judge Edwin Stern to fill the court’s seventh seat. Five justices constitute a quorum. Rivera-Soto said he would refrain from participating in decisions so long as Stern sits on the court, declaring that Rabner’s appointment of Stern was unconstitutional. Rivera-Soto later modified his position, stating that he would vote and issue opinions unless he decides to abstain. In between the two statements, Rivera-Soto informed Christie that he would not seek to be reappointed when he term expires in September. Many Democrats, notably Sweeney and former Senate President/Acting Governor Richard Codey have called on Rivera -Soto to resign immediately.
Little caused herself some problems during the 2010 congressional campaign while flashing her constitutional scholar credentials. In an October 2010 column, Star Ledger columnist Tom Moran said of Little,
“One is left with the feeling that Little hasn’t done her homework. Politics is refreshed by new faces and perspectives, but the best rookies study hard before they swing this wildly. The tea party is bringing us a new breed. They are angry, as we are often told. But isn’t there something arrogant about this, too?”
MMM doesn’t often agree with Moran, but the shoe seems to fit in this case.