New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) blamed politics for the state senate committee rejection of New Jersey Supreme Court nominee Bruce Harris, the first openly gay and third African-American nominee to the state’s high court.
The Democrat-controlled Judiciary Committee on May 31 voted 7-6 to reject the 61-year-old Harris, currently the mayor of Chatham Borough.
“I thought there was no question he was going to pass. I’m nominating an Amherst magna cum laude graduate, Yale law degree graduate with an MBA from Boston University… 10 years in business… 20 years in a law firm….African-American, first openly homosexual appointed to the New Jersey Supreme Court—yeah, I kind of thought I had a decent chance of getting someone with that profile confirmed,” the governor said sharply during a press conference at the State House in Trenton, N.J., after the decision.
“What I didn’t account for was that they were just going to play politics with it,” he said. “And if you listen to their reasons they were so lame….They had to look that man in the eye—a good, decent, hard-working, talented lawyer—and shoot him and so they thought it made it better if they apologized when they did it. Well, it didn’t.”
Some of the lawmakers questioned whether Harris, a finance lawyer for 20 years, had enough courtroom experience. Others were puzzled by his promise to recuse himself from cases involving same-sex marriage.
“I think we all understand that although I am openly gay and have been with [my partner] for 32 years, that if I have the honor of being confirmed and serving on this court that doesn’t mean that I am going to automatically vote in favor of same-sex marriage,” Harris testified.
But state Sen. Nia Gill (D-Essex) questioned his motives. “…You’re not a judge and you have already actively taken yourself out of the process,” Gill said, according to nj.com. “Is your recusal political?”
Harris calmly replied, “My decision to recuse myself on same-sex marriage is no political calculus.”
This is the second major defeat for the GOP governor. In March, the state Senate Judiciary Committee rejected the nomination of First Assistant State Attorney General Phillip Kwon for a place on the state supreme court, which has two empty seats.
Christie said in a later interview that despite the Democrats political maneuvering; he is still willing to work with them on a bipartisan basis.
“I’m not happy about this but I’m not going to be a petulant child who’s going to go off and hold my breath in a corner and say now I’m not going to work with you on anything else. That won’t be consistent with the oaths I swore,” he said. “I think it’s unjust. And I think most objective observers think it’s unjust. But does that mean I’m going to.”