N.J. Senate confirms Rabner, Solomon on high court

Chief Justice Stuart Rabner at a confirmation hearing. Rabner, 53, can now serve until he reaches 70, the mandatory retirement age.
Chief Justice Stuart Rabner at a confirmation hearing. Rabner, 53, can now serve until he reaches 70, the mandatory retirement age. (MEL EVANS / AP)
Posted: June 21, 2014

TRENTON - The New Jersey Senate on Thursday confirmed Gov. Christie's two picks to the state Supreme Court, sealing a breakthrough in a years-long impasse over the court's composition.

Chief Justice Stuart Rabner was confirmed on a 29-6 vote after months of speculation about whether Christie would renominate him. The Republican governor had criticized Rabner's court as liberal and activist.

The Senate also confirmed Lee Solomon, a Haddonfield Republican and state court judge, by a 34-2 vote.

Rabner, 53, a Democrat, can now serve until he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70. A former federal prosecutor under Christie while he was the U.S. attorney in New Jersey, Rabner was first appointed to the court by Democratic Gov. Jon S. Corzine in 2007.

The confirmations were a result of a deal struck last month between Christie and Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester). After Christie took the unprecedented stop of denying tenure to Justice John Wallace in 2010, Sweeney blocked the governor's nominees, leaving two vacancies on the court. There is still one vacancy.

State Sen. Mike Doherty (R., Warren) voted against Rabner's confirmation. He reiterated concerns he expressed during Monday's Judiciary Committee hearing, especially about the possibility that Rabner would reconsider his decision to recuse himself from opinions on the state's school-funding formula.

Rabner said then that he had recused himself so far because he had provided legal advice to Corzine on the issue but would consider participating in future decisions on the formula.

Sen. Diane Allen (R., Burlington) also voted no, saying she disagreed "with the way [Rabner] looks at the constitution."

"The Legislature should determine the way tax dollars are spent," not the court, she said.

Sen. Richard Codey (D., Essex) said Rabner was no partisan warrior. Rabner is "clearly mainstream New Jersey," Codey said.

Solomon, 59, did not face vocal opposition Thursday. He is a Camden County assignment judge and former state assemblyman who served under Christie as deputy U.S. attorney for the southern vicinages of New Jersey.

He is also a former president of the Board of Public Utilities.


aseidman@phillynews.com

856-779-3846

@AndrewSeidman

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