Christie’s Supreme Court Nominees Under Scrutiny

The press is vetting Govenor Chris Christie’s nominees to the State Supreme Court.

NJ.com, The Star Ledger’s website, posted an article this morning about the family business of nominee Phillip Kwon. Kwon’s mother owns a  liquor store in Mt. Vernon, NY that made a $160,000 settlement with the New York U.S. Attorney’s office over $2,000,000 in allegedly “structured” cash bank deposits.  “Structuring” is the practice of spreading out cash deposits in order to avoid the $10,000 trigger that requires the bank to report the deposit to the IRS.

There is no evidence or allegation that Kwon had anything to do with the business or the transactions.  There was no admission of liablity in the settlement.

Star Ledger columnist/blogger Paul Mulshine reports that Bruce Harris, the African-American gay Mayor of Chatham that Christie nominatied to the Court along with Kwon this week, wrote an email to state senators, including Joe Pennacchio,  asking that they support the same sex marriage bill that was before the Senate during the lame duck session of 2009.

Harris’s email said, in part (with emphasis added):

The New Jersey Supreme court has determined that our relationship is entitled to the equal protection guarantees of the State Constitution. The New jersey Civil Union Review Commission determined that civil unions do not provide the equality the State Constitution mandates.(Please take a few moments and visit www.gardenstateequality.org. which has two short videos that provide sad examples of the failures of the civil union law.)

Mulshine points out that there is no equal protection clause in the State Constitution.   Mulshine quotes conservative Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll regarding “originalists” interpretations of the State Constitution:

“No originalist can tell me there’s an equal protection clause in the constitution. No originalist can tell me there’s a right to a thorough and efficient education or a right to affordable housing.”

As much as Christie has done, and is attempting to do, to reform New Jersey’s government, there is nothing more important he can do that make sure conservatives, “orignalists,” are seated on the Supreme Court.  The State Supreme Court will be his legacy.

I hope that Christie is not using the same standard that former Governor Christine Todd Whitman used to populate the Court, i.e., appointing friends and senior staffers or making “diversity” appointments for political gain.

The activist State Supreme Court, with the consent of the Legislature and six governors/acting governors, have destroyed New Jersey’s economy over the two decades. 

Governor Christie needs to make sure his nominees have the “right stuff.”   Hopefully Kwon and Harris do. 

Harris said we would recuse himself from cases involving gay marriage.  Now that he is going to be a Justice, if confirmed, he needs to brush up on the State Constitution.

As for Kwon, the news of his mother’s business with the feds is interesting but does not qualify him. 

The question the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the press, should ask, is what does qualify Kwon and Harris.  

Is being the Governor’s long term trusted colleague enough?  Is being Black and gay enough?

Maybe it is.  But similar standards did not serve us well with Whitman’s Court.

Posted: January 29th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: NJ Judiciary, NJ Supreme Court | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

5 Comments on “Christie’s Supreme Court Nominees Under Scrutiny”

  1. Barry said at 5:42 pm on January 29th, 2012:

    Art These are NJ Superior Court nominees not NJ Supreme Court nominees correct?

  2. ArtGallagher said at 5:48 pm on January 29th, 2012:


    No, they are NJ Supreme Court nominees.

  3. Sancho Panza said at 6:05 pm on January 29th, 2012:

    Article I, especially Para. 5.

  4. ArtGallagher said at 6:11 pm on January 29th, 2012:

    Thanks Sancho,

    Here’s a link to the NJ Constitution, for those who want to determine if there is an equal protection clause:


  5. Sancho Panza said at 6:35 pm on January 29th, 2012:

    And here are a couple of pertinent excerpts from Judge Albin’s decision in the important Lewis v. Harris case:

    Mulshine should have taken into account decades of clear judicial decisions.

    “Article I, Paragraph 1 of the New Jersey Constitution sets forth the first principles of our governmental charter — that every person possesses the “unalienable rights” to enjoy life, liberty, and property, and to pursue happiness. Although our State Constitution nowhere expressly states that every person shall be entitled to the equal protection of the laws, we have construed the expansive language of Article I, Paragraph 1 to embrace that fundamental guarantee. Sojourner A. v. N.J. Dep’t of Human Servs., 177 N.J. 318, 332 (2003); Greenberg, supra, 99 N.J. at 568. Quite simply, that first paragraph to our State Constitution “protect[s] against injustice and against the unequal treatment of those who should be treated alike.” Greenberg, supra, 99 N.J. at 568. . . .

    “The test that we have applied to such equal protection claims involves the weighing of three factors: the nature of the right at stake, the extent to which the challenged statutory scheme restricts that right, and the public need for the statutory restriction. Greenberg, supra, 99 N.J. at 567; Robinson v. Cahill, 62 N.J. 473, 491-92, cert. denied, 414 U.S. 976, 94 S. Ct. 292, 38 L. Ed. 2d 219 (1973). The test is a flexible one, measuring the importance of the right against the need for the governmental restriction.13 See Sojourner A., supra, 177 N.J. at 333. . . .

    “In addressing plaintiffs’ claimed interest in equality of treatment, we begin with a retrospective look at the evolving expansion of rights to gays and lesbians in this State. Today, in New Jersey, it is just as unlawful to discriminate against individuals on the basis of sexual orientation as it is to discriminate against them on the basis of race, national origin, age, or sex. See N.J.S.A. 10:5-4. Over the last three decades, through judicial decisions and comprehensive legislative enactments, this State, step by step, has protected gay and lesbian individuals from discrimination on account of their sexual orientation.”