New Jersey’s state Supreme Court entered a standoff Friday after Associate Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto announced he would refuse to take part in any decisions for the foreseeable future, pitting him against the state’s Senate and the rest of the court. The move was prompted by his belief that the current makeup of the court, which includes a temporary interim judge appointed by the Chief Justice, is unconstitutional.
The standoff is the latest in Governor Chris Christie’s efforts to reform the Supreme Court, which he has characterized as being too imbalanced and activist.
Last May, after holding office for just four months, Christie – a conservative stalwart – effectively “took on” the state’s Supreme Court by becoming the first governor in 63 years to refuse to renominate a sitting justice. The move angered New Jersey’s Democratic establishment and in response, the Senate blocked the governor’s more conservative nominee by refusing to hold a hearing on the nomination.
That, in turn, led Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner to appoint Appellate Judge Edwin Stern as an interim replacement to fill the seat vacated by the outgoing justice. But according to Rivera-Soto, the Chief Justice’s move is unconstitutional because the only lawful reason for a temporary replacement is if it is “necessary.”
On Friday, Rivera-Soto released a statement arguing Stern’s appointment is not necessary because the court still has enough judges to fulfill its duties without him. The appointment, said Rivera-Soto, “thrusts the judiciary into the political thicket, all the while improperly advancing one side’s views in preference over the other’s.”
Read more here.