By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent
After seven years as the New Jersey’s Chief Justice, Stuart Rabner shared a little of his judicial philosophy at his reconfirmation hearing today.
“What I can say is that on all of the cases I’ve worked, I have tried to give meaning and defer to the words of the statute and questions drafted by this legislature to the words of the constitution. I’ve tried to respond to the parties arguments and give reasons for my decisions to write clearly, so the legal community and the public at large can follow and review the rulings of the court to build consensus,” said Rabner.
Last month, Governor Christie renominated Rabner for lifetime tenure.
The 53-year old Democrat was appointed by Jon Corzine and if re-confirmed by the full Senate could serve until the year 2030, when he will turn 70.
Generally thought of as liberal, Rabner was questioned by veteran conservative Republican Senator Gerald Cardinale about whether he respects precedent or believes the constitution is a living document subject to change.
“Do you believe that the constitution changes according to the conditions of our times?” said Cardinale.
Rabner said no, but.
“But there may as the case law speaks to, special justification when courts reverse precedent, when courts takes a different direction,” said Rabner.
There are things the drafters couldn’t anticipate, he said.
“The internet, cell phones, privacy issues,” said Rabner.
By and large, the questioning was gentle, respectful, even complimentary.
But conservative Republican Michael Doherty launched a near-tirade on the Supreme Court’s handling of school funding.
Doherty is a longtime opponent of the Court’s Abbott decisions.
“Hoboken is still inhabit according to the New Jersey Supreme Court at 69,000 per capita in this May 24, 2011 decision. They were still inhabit, which was after the 2010 census when they’re at 69,000 per capita. I represent a town that per capita is less than half, 29,000, they’re not inhabit. TheyRaber going to get free schools, three to four year pre-school, how is this equal protection under the law,” said Doherty.
Rabner basically dodged Doherty.
The committee eventually approved him 11 to 2 with Doherty and Republican Joe Kyrillos voting no.
Waiting in the wings was Judge Lee Solomon, Christie’s other appointee, whose hearing was still going on as we went to air.
As Doherty noted, this cold be the last time legislators get to question the Chief Justice between now and 20:30. Although it lasted more than four hours, the Chief Justice got a soft landing today and will probably fare as well when the full Senate votes on his re-confirmation.