By Michael Catalini
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Gov. Chris Christie nominated his pick to fill a longstanding vacancy on the state Supreme Court on Feb. 28, tapping a jurist he nominated four years ago who never received a confirmation hearing.
Christie announced Superior Court Judge David Bauman’s nomination at a statehouse news conference. He praised Bauman as the best of a number of judges interviewed for the vacancy and said he would be the first Asian American appointed to the state’s high court, if confirmed by the state Senate.
Christie called Bauman “exceptionally qualified.” Baumann, 59, serves as a judge with superior court in Monmouth County. He said he was “truly honored” by the nomination.
The nomination comes as the Republican-led U.S. Senate has vowed not to consider a U.S. Supreme Court nominee from President Barack Obama. Christie, whose nominee faces vetting by a Democrat-led state Senate, directly addressed the comparison, saying U.S. lawmakers should do the “right thing” and consider a nominee.
“It’s the right time for us to move forward on this,” Christie said. “It’s the right time to set an example for Washington, D.C.”
But whether Bauman will get a hearing in New Jersey is unclear. A spokesman for Senate President Steve Sweeney said he was unavailable for comment. Judiciary Committee chairman state Sen. Nicholas Scutari also declined to comment.
The current makeup of the seven-member court includes two Democrat-nominated justices and four Republican-picked ones. Judge Mary Catherine Cuff has been serving temporarily since 2012. She was appointed to the bench by Gov. Tom Kean, a Republican.
Christie has clashed with Democrats over court nominations in the past. In 2014, Christie agreed to re-nominated Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, a Corzine administration appointee, in exchange for the Senate confirming Lee Solomon, whom the governor nominated.
That deal left one vacancy, filled temporarily by Cuff.
The nomination came just three days after Christie endorsed Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump, who in recent days has sparred with reporters over the endorsement of white supremacist and former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. Christie declined to answer any questions not related to the nomination. (end)