Conservative group attacks Christie's judicial record

Posted: July 17, 2014

As Gov. Christie prepares to head to Iowa later this week, a conservative group opposed to his judicial record is targeting voters there with an online ad campaign saying that the New Jersey governor "broke his promise" to reshape the state Supreme Court.

A 90-second spot from the Judicial Crisis Network describes New Jersey's high court as "one of the most activist courts in the nation," issuing rulings that have "wreaked havoc on state finances, driven away business, and jeopardized jobs."

"Over and over, Gov. Chris Christie promised he would fix it," the ad says. "Over and over, he broke his promise."

The ad, announced Tuesday, will appear on conservative websites and Iowa media sites. A 15-second spot will run before YouTube videos watched by Iowa users, the group said. The group says it expects the campaign, which cost $75,000 and includes a website, will net 5.5 million views.

The Republican governor, who has repeatedly railed against the court's rulings on affordable housing and education funding as overly activist and blames the state's high property taxes on some of those rulings, earlier this year renominated Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, a Democrat, for tenure.

The deal, reached with Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester), also placed a new Republican on the court, breaking a stalemate over nominees that began when Christie took the unprecedented step of not renominating a sitting justice in 2010.

After that, Sweeney began to block Christie's nominees to the court. During Christie's tenure, Democrats have cleared three of his Republican nominees, but one vacancy on the seven-member court remains. Christie said in May that he was not considering another name to fill the seat.

Christie, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, is traveling to Iowa on Thursday to raise money for Republicans there and to stump for Gov. Terry Branstad.

But the New Jersey governor's trip is seen as significant for his own political ambitions: Christie is considering a run for president in 2016, and Iowa holds the first caucus in the presidential contest.

The Judicial Crisis Network ad targeting Christie says the next president may play a role in nominating justices to the U.S. Supreme Court and mentions Obamacare as a hot-button issue that could come under the court's purview.

"We just want to make sure people realize the importance of the [judiciary] as an issue," said Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director for the group. "In particular, we've seen Christie's record of governing shows he doesn't take this issue seriously."

Severino said Christie's judicial record was "important for conservatives across the country to realize."

In renominating Rabner in May, Christie said that "when you compromise, you don't get everything you want," but that the court, "in my opinion, is a significantly better court today than it was" before he took office.

Critics of his decision "never have to make decisions themselves," Christie said. "My life is about the real thing."

Mike DuHaime, a political adviser to Christie, said Tuesday that the Judicial Crisis Network "should get its facts straight."

Christie "has nominated multiple conservatives to the Supreme Court, but several have been blocked by the Democrat state Senate," DuHaime said.

He said the Judicial Crisis Network had been "noticeably absent from each and every judicial fight Gov. Christie has had in New Jersey, showing up only to criticize after the fights are over."

Severino, who said the group flew a banner ad over the Jersey Shore on Memorial Day weekend after Christie's decision, said the new ad campaign was "certainly not an isolated effort."

Christie's judicial record "is something we followed frankly from back when he was campaigning" for governor, she said. "It has been something we've been following for a long time, and we'll continue to follow."


mhanna@phillynews.com

609-989-8990

@maddiehanna

www.inquirer.com/christiechronicles

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