According to the AP, the New Jersey Senate “is scheduled to vote Thursday on a resolution saying Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto should resign [from the New Jersey Supreme Court] if the Assembly doesn’t move to impeach him.”
The vote is supposed to be a rebuke of Governor Christie, who has not played along with Senate President Stephen Sweeney’s ongoing attempt to control the state’s supreme court. But constitutional conservatives weren’t too thrilled with Rivera-Soto’s judicial record anyway, so I’m not sure this is such a smart move. If Rivera-Soto resigns or is impeached it would actually end up benefiting Governor Christie by giving him another appointment and hastening the fulfillment of his campaign promise to remake the court. Sweeney should probably receive a thank you note from Christie’s office.
This is not an isolated incident. It is just another inflection point in the ongoing constitutional crisis involving the supreme court — and the responsibility for creating that crisis falls squarely on Sweeney’s shoulders. Nearly nine months ago, Governor Christie nominated Anne Patterson to the New Jersey Supreme Court. Since then, Senate president Stephen Sweeney has refused to hold hearings on Patterson’s nomination. According to Sweeney: “This seat will stay open.”
What explains his obstruction? Governor Christie exercised his constitutional prerogative to replace Sweeney’s friend, Justice John Wallace, a liberal judicial activist whose constitutional term was up.
If New Jersey’s senators believe resignation or impeachment is the appropriate remedy for dealing with an official who refuses to perform his official duties, then Sweeney should be next.