POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Christie Nominates Gay African-American and Asian-American to Top Court

By Young Soo Yang

In a move to diversify the New Jersey Supreme Court, Gov. Chris Christie announced the nominations of lawyers Bruce A. Harris and Phillip Kwon at a Statehouse news conference Monday.

Harris is the mayor of Chatham in Morris County and a lawyer with more than 20 years of legal experience. He graduated magna cum laude from Amherst College and graduated with honors from Boston University Graduate School of Management and Yale Law School. He would be the third African-American to be seated on the court and the first openly gay member if confirmed.

Phillip Kwon lives in Closter, Bergen County and currently serves as First Assistant Attorney General where he has been the principal legal and strategic adviser to the Attorney General. Previously, he served New Jersey as part of the United States Attorney’s Office as the Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division, the Chief of the Violent Crimes Unit and the Assistant U.S. Attorney of both the Special Prosecutions Division and the Criminal Division. Kwon graduated from Georgetown University and from Rutgers Law School. Kwon, a Korean-American, would be the first Asian-American on the high court if confirmed.

“Today is an important and historic symbol for New Jersey and our country. I am proud to be nominating two legal professionals who not only have a passion for this state and a dedication to the legal system, but also capture New Jersey’s great diversity,” said Governor Christie.

The current court is made up of five women and two men, all of whom are white.

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Both nominations are subject to Senate confirmation. In an agreement reached last May to end the impasse over the nomination of Justice Anne Patterson, Senate President Stephen Sweeney promised an expedited confirmation process for these nominations, with an appropriate review process and up-or-down vote taking place in time for each to be seated by March of this year.

After the announcement, Christie answered questions from members of the media on a variety of topics, including Mitt Romney’s loss to Newt Gingrich in the South Carolina primary.

Christie said he was clearly disappointed by Romney’s loss but dismissed the setback as part of the process. He had strong words for the former House Speaker, calling Gingrich an influence peddler for the last 10 years, referring to Gingrich’s consulting work with mortgage giant Freddie Mac. “I know what we pay history teachers and we don’t pay them millions of dollars,” said Christie.

On his proposed income tax cut of 10 percent, Christie sad that his plan does not assume any ramp up in any revenue figures.

On the prospect of being asked to be a vice presidential nominee, he said he would always take the phone call and listen but that his desire and inclination is to remain governor of New Jersey for the entire term. He also added that he was not “the kind of guy to be number two.”

When asked about the Super Bowl, Christie said that despite being a Jets fan, he will be “rooting hard for the New Jersey Giants on Feb. 5.”

NJToday‘s Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron will have more on this story tonight at 6, 7:30 and 11 pm.