Gov. Christie nominated the head of the Board of Public Utilities and a Republican Superior Court judge to fill two vacancies on the Supreme Court this morning, saying he was making a "compromise" offer to legislative Democrats to end a long-running stalemate over high court appointments.
Robert Hanna, 56, of Morris County, worked for Christie at the U.S. Attorney's Office. As governor, Christie appointed him to two posts: director of the Division of Law at the Attorney General’s Office and later president of the BPU, a cabinet position that required Senate confirmation. He is registered to vote as an independent, although he donated $800 to Christie in 2009.
David Bauman, 56, of Monmouth County, born in Japan to a Japanese mother and American father who was serving in the Navy, is a Marine Corps veteran who was appointed to the Monmouth County Superior Court by former Gov. Jon Corzine. He would be the first Asian-American to serve on the high court.
At the beginning of his term Christie broke precedent and opted not to reappoint Gloucester County's John Wallace to the seven-member Supreme Court, leaving it without an African American member. Democrats then demanded that Christie ensure both diversity and political balance when filling vacancies.
"These two nominees represent a political compromise on my part, a reaching out across the aisle to Democrats in order to get our court fully staffed in the way our constitution envisioned," Christie said at a press conference today.
Christie's appointment last year of Anne Patterson made it through the Senate, but for the first time since the modern state constitution was enacted in the mid-20th century, the Senate rejected Christie's next two picks: Bruce Harris, the gay African American Republican mayor of Chatham, and Philip Kwon, a Korean-born registered independent who had worked for Christie at the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Democrats said Harris lacked experience in the courtroom and they contended that Kwon was a stealth Republican under a cloud over his family's legal problems.
Democrats have yet to release a statement on Hanna and Bauman, so we don't know if they will block these nominations. I have already heard from some on the left, though, who are concerned that the nominations would leave the court without an African American or a Latino member in a state where both of those groups are heavily represented.