Bench Memos

Christie Lies about his Judicial Record, Again

Bring out the Pinocchios. Governor Christie went on Face the Nation this week and was asked about his support for Justice Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court. He denied it. ”I didn’t voice support for Sonia Sotomayor.” As Buzzfeed’s Kyle Blaine quickly noted, that was a lie. Here is what Christie said about Sotomayor back in 2009: “I support her appointment to the Supreme Court and urge the Senate to keep politics out of the process and confirm her nomination.”

One Pinocchio.

Christie was also asked about his appointment of New Jersey’s liberal chief justice, Stuart Rabner, a Democrat. According to Christie, the Rabner appointment was worth it because, as he put it, he got two Republican justices in exchange, leaving the New Jersey Supreme Court with “a majority of Republicans on the court for the first time in recent history.”

Anyone with access to Google can show that the New Jersey Supreme Court does not in fact have a majority of Republicans, and has not had such a majority in decades. As New Jersey’s Star-Ledger explained in its coverage of the Rabner “deal”:

Christie came into office at a time when there were four Democrats, two Republicans and one independent on the Supreme Court. He would leave the Statehouse having flipped only one seat, with three Republicans, three Democrats and one independent.

Two Pinocchios.

To make things worse, it isn’t even true that he got two Republicans, as he claims. Again, as anyone with access to Google can verify, and as the Star-Ledger has also noted, Christie’s appointment of Rabner came in exchange for the confirmation of one Republican, Lee Solomon, while the remaining vacancy is temporarily filled by Mary Cuff, a Democrat.

The Pinocchios are stacking up.

But let’s set aside these “Republican” and “Democrat” labels, since anyone familiar with the judicial records of Justices John Paul Stevens and David Souter can tell you that appointing a majority of “Republicans” is a worthless goal. The more important question is: Who is Lee Solomon? Here is what local conservative columnist Paul Mulshine wrote at the time:

Despite Christie’s campaign pledges to the pro-lifers, Solomon has a history as a pro-choicer. I found that out when I checked The Star-Ledger archives and found an article from 1991, when Solomon was running for the state Assembly. The article reported that Solomon was among 65 candidates endorsed by New Jersey Right to Choose. A spokeswoman from that group was quoted as saying that all those endorsed “said they opposed parental notification laws” as well.

In short, one of Christie’s appointees — one that he still seems to be proud of — was endorsed by a major pro-choice group on the grounds that he opposed parental notification. Sadly, Solomon is not the only liberal Christie has appointed. As I explained in a previous NRO essay:

In 2013 the New Jersey Supreme Court, including two Christie appointees, handed down a unanimous decision in favor of same-sex marriage. As if that didn’t say enough about what Christie’s “kind of justices” would do on the issue of same-sex marriage, Christie tried to appoint another justice whose views on the issue were even clearer. Bruce Harris — whose nomination was ultimately rejected by the state senate after he acknowledged that he had no courtroom experience — was known mainly for writing a letter to legislators in which he argued that opposing same-sex marriage is analogous to supporting “slavery, (which is even provided for in the Bible), segregation, the subservience of women, to name just a few of these ‘traditions.’” According to Harris, “if the basis of your opposition is religious, then I suggest that you do what the U.S. Constitution mandates — and that is to maintain a separation between the state and religion.”

The bottom line is that Christie broke his promise to remake New Jersey’s Supreme Court. He has had the opportunity to fill five vacancies, but time after time, he demonstrated that he had other priorities. That he would rather make deals than fight for highly qualified justices who would stick to the text and original meaning of the Constitution. His judicial legacy is hardly distinguishable from his Democratic predecessor’s, which makes his support for President Obama’s nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, so much easier to believe.

Carrie Severino — Carrie Severino is chief counsel and policy director to the Judicial Crisis Network.

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