Gov. Phil Murphy announced plans to re-nominate Anne Patterson, a Republican appointee of former Gov. Chris Christie, to another term on the state Supreme Court, signaling his intention of maintaining New Jersey’s traditional partisan balance of judges on the state’s highest court.
The decision announced Thursday will give Patterson tenure on the court, and contains a dose of irony.
Shortly after Christie took office in 2010, he bucked a decades-old state tradition of re-nominating judges by unseating Democratic Justice John Wallace Jr. and trying to replace her with Morris County attorney Patterson, saying the court had become too “activist.” Christie later backed off that demand and appointed Patterson to fill the seat of outgoing Republican Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto.
Murphy said in a statement that he was pleased “to uphold the practice of reappointing good, fair-minded and qualified justices, regardless of their party affiliation” to the state’s highest court.
“This is a critical tenet of an independent judiciary that I fully intend to fulfill,” he said.
New Jersey State Bar President John E. Keefe Jr. hailed the decision, calling Patterson “an exemplary jurist and legal scholar.”
“She has authored numerous opinions and demonstrated a keen intellect, fairness, integrity and a strong and even-handed application of the law,” he said.
Chief Justice Stuart Rabner also praised the decision, calling Patterson “a gifted and thoughtful jurist” and said he anticipated “a smooth reconfirmation process.”
Patterson is the first of several Supreme Court appointments expected from Murphy. Republican appointees Faustino Fernandez-Vina and Lee Solomon will come up for tenure during his first term and Democratic appointee Walter Timpone turns 70 in 2020, giving Murphy a chance to name a new justice.
The seven-member panel is comprised of three Democrats, three Republicans and one unaffiliated justice, Jaynee LaVecchia. Justices are appointed to initial seven-year terms and then become eligible for tenure. The mandatory retirement age is 70.