Senatorial Courtesy, an oft written about unwritten rule of the legislative confirmation process that is in the news in New Jersey due to a battle that Governor Chris Christie is having with the Essex County senate delegation over the confirmation of Acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf.
On the federal level, both U.S. senators of a state, or the senior senator of the presidents party, can block the confirmation of a presidential appointee who resides in the state the senators represent.
In New Jersey, a senator can block the confirmation of a gubernatorial appointee who resides in the senator’s home county.
On both the federal level and in New Jersey, the senators don’t need a reason to block the confirmation.
The Democrats who control the New Jersey Senate are apparently stung by Governor Christie’s campaign against senatorial courtesy and the Essex County Democrats that Christie has targeted with criticism. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Nicholas Scutari (D-Union) has instructed the Office of Legislative Services to restrict access to the data base of who is exercising senatorial courtesy to only the Senate President and top staffers, thereby preventing Republicans from finding out who is blocking the governor’s appointments, according to The Star Ledger.
We don’t hear much about the Monmouth County delegation invoking senatorial courtesy. The last time I can recall it the tradition being discussed publicly regarding a Monmouth County nominee was when Democratic County Chairman Victor Scudiery asked then Republican Senator Joe Palaia to block Luis Valentin’s appointment as prosecutor in 2005. Palaia declined and Valentin was confirmed.
Just because we don’t hear about it doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.