Christie: Keep GOP Justice Out of Politics

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -

Gov. Chris Christie said Monday he won’t renominate a fellow Republican to the state Supreme Court he promised to remake in his conservative image, rather than allow her to be attacked by Democrats.

“I was not going to let her loose to the animals,” Christie said of Justice Helen Hoens, whose term expires in September. The 59-year-old jurist could have remained on the high court until the mandatory retirement age of 70. But Democrats refused to go along, Christie said, because they aren’t finished exacting retribution over his failure to reappoint John Wallace for tenure in 2010.

Wallace, the court’s only African-American, was two years from retirement. Christie’s first attempt to follow through on a campaign promise to reshape the court was met with fury that has stalled court appointments since.

Hoens said she was saddened she can’t continue on the court but thankful for having had the opportunity to serve New Jersey.

Christie introduced his latest nominee, Judge Faustino Fernandez-Vina, on Monday. The 61-year-old Superior Court judge, a Cuban American, would be the only Hispanic on the court, but not the first. Two other Christie nominees are awaiting hearings. David Bauman, a Superior Court judge who was born in Japan, and Robert Hanna, president of the Board of Public Utilities that oversees the state’s regulated utilities, were nominated in December.