By David Cruz
In sharp contrast to his unwillingness to play ball with the Assembly speaker, Gov. Chris Christie today put on a display of compromise with the State Senate president that seems to have resolved the Supreme Court deadlock and suggested that the ongoing fight over superior court appointees could also be over.
“We needed to get to an agreement on this. I wanted to get to an agreement. What matters the most is that this process works and works for the people of the state and I think we’ve found someone that I have the highest level of trust and regard for and that Steve has assured me is someone that can be confirmed,” Christie said.
Walter Timpone — a Democrat — has a long history in New Jersey. He’s a former assistant at the U.S. Attorney’s Office who’s been called on to put out controversial fires, like serving as the election monitor in Paterson when voting rights were at stake there, and leading an investigation into inspections at the then Department of Motor Vehicles.
“You want the people sitting on the state’s highest court to be of unquestioned integrity and I think what you’ll hear from people throughout the legal community, in the hours and days that follow this nomination, is that people of real stature in the state and the legal community believe that he’s got extraordinary integrity,” Christie said.
But Timpone is not without controversy. Most recently, his recusal from an Election Law Enforcement case involving Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo — a close Christie ally — essentially closed the case, which could have cost DiVincenzo a hefty fine. And back in 2002, while under consideration for a job as Christie’s top assistant at the U.S. Attorney’s office, Timpone’s associations with Sen. Bob Torricelli, then under federal investigation, raised concerns with the attorney general and others.
“I fought hard back in 2002 and I think the Justice Department was wrong at that time and I even went to Washington D.C. to argue directly with the attorney general and the deputy attorney general on Mr. Timpone’s behalf,” Christie said.
The Senate president said Timpone is a good choice and doesn’t think he will be dancing to the governor’s tune.
“He’s respected by a lot of Democrats around the state. He’s a real Democrat. I’ve looked through his contributions: 99.9 percent have been to Democrats. I’ll save you some work, he did make a contribution to the governor’s presidential campaign,” Senate President Steve Sweeney said. “He’s a Democrat and I don’t think he’s a rubber stamp by any means.”
As for David Bauman, he joins the governor’s list of wrecked Supreme Court nominees scattered along the highway of compromise to which the governor — at least for today, anyway — seems to have, once again, found the on ramp.