Should conservatives be concerned about Gov. Chris Christie's picks to fill the two open seats on the N.J. Supreme Court? Steve Lonegan, who heads about the state chapter of Americans for Prosperity (AFP), has offered up a reasonable and balanced assessment. Lonegan, a former mayor who challenged Christie from the right in the 2009 Republican gubernatorial primary, is "open but skeptical." That's fair.
Gov. Christie is clearly playing the diversity game and that does not necessarily mean his two nominees are not qualified. But it is worth recalling that our own Ronald Reagan also played the diversity game back in the early 80s' when he placed Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court instead nominating Judge Robert Bork. The diversity card came back to bite the conservative movement in a number of ways. As I report here today for The American Spectator, it was O'Connor who upheld the use of race in admissions in the Grutter v. Bollinger ruling involving the University of Michigan Law School.
Gov. Christie does deserve credit and praise for challenging the N.J. Supreme Court's activism and for making judicial overreach a major theme of his administration. (For a fuller explanation, please see last year's "Supreme Confidence.")
But elevation of "diversity" above merit could have unsettling policy ramifications.
Here is Lonegan's full statement:
With two vacancies to fill on the state Supreme Court, Gov. Christie has an historic opportunity to steer the court in a new direction and restore the proper balance of powers to state government. Four decades of unrestrained judicial activism and social engineering from the state's high court has done untold damage to the state's fiscal condition, resulted in an ever-escalating tax burden, and undermined the very fabric of communities across the state.
The appointment of conservative, originalist justices to the state Supreme Court is a critical step in restoring the rule of law, putting New Jersey back on a path to prosperity, and completing the 'New Jersey comeback' the governor touts.
While I am open to considering the nominations of Mayor Harris and Executive Assistant Attorney General Kwon, I remain skeptical for neither of these nominees has served on the bench nor has a record suitable to proper vetting of a potential Supreme Court Justice.
At first blush, it appears these nominees may have been chosen more for their demographic profile than their philosophical leaning and if that's the case, New Jersey taxpayers will have lost a great opportunity we thought would happen when Jon Corzine was defeated.