Any day now, Governor Christie will make an important decision about whether he will preserve judicial independence or play politics with the courts and put justice at risk.
In 2010, Governor Christie sent shockwaves through the state when he removed Justice John Wallace -- a respected jurist and the New Jersey Supreme Court’s only African-American justice -- because he didn’t like the Justice’s decisions.
With that decision, Governor Christie sent the courts a clear message: Rule against me, and you will be next.
Now Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, author of an October 2013 decision in Garden State Equality v. Dow that was instrumental in providing the freedom for same-sex couples to marry in the state, is up for reappointment. There is a real fear that Governor Christie, who strongly disagreed with that ruling, will not reappoint the Chief Justice to the bench.
We need justice, not politics. The judicial branch of government has to uphold the Constitution and safeguard the rights of minorities from the majority. Courts in New Jersey have upheld the rights of people seeking equality in education and fair housing, as well as the freedom to marry.
We do not want judges looking over their shoulders to make sure they aren’t deciding a case in a way that would be at odds with a governor’s political agenda. The public needs to have confidence that the courts are deciding cases based on the law not based on fear of political retribution.
The facts about Governor Christie’s political attack on the courts:
- Governor Christie is the only governor in modern history not to reappoint a sitting New Jersey Supreme Court justice.
- The New Jersey State Bar Association states that if Governor Christie fails to reappoint Chief Justice Rabner it would be an “unprecedented intrusion of politics into the third co-equal branch, and continued evidence of attempts to undermine the independence of that branch.”
- If Christie chooses not to re-nominate the Chief Justice, there will be only 4 justices left on the court, and 3 vacant seats.
“Fair Courts in New Jersey” is a joint effort of Lambda Legal, CWA New Jersey, New Jersey Citizen Action, Latino Action Network and Blue Jersey.