Senate Confirms Supreme Court Nominees, With Some Dissent

By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent

First up on the Senate agenda was the reconfirmation of Chief Justice Stuart Rabner.

Chairs were reserved for him and a guest, but he did not attend.

The Judiciary Committee on Monday approved his nomination 11 to 2.

Debate on the Senate floor today reflected that division, with some Republicans supporting him and others saying they just cannot.

“I don’t doubt that Justice Rabner is an amazing person, good man, perhaps a great manager but I disagree with the way he looks at the Constitution,” said Sen. Diane Allen.

Democrats uniformly supported him.

“He has performed the duties with dignity and class, and with all the intellectual capacity that one could ask for,” said Sen. Nicholas Scutari.

“And as far as his decisions, he’s not way to the left or right. He’s clearly mainstream New Jersey,” added Sen. Richard Codey.

But his Republican critics fault the Supreme Court’s decisions on the distribution of school aid and say that makes up their minds.

“Some of us have been crying out for years, to treat our children, my children fairly,” Sen. Joe Pennacchio said.

“He has led a court that has made New Jersey less prosperous and less successful,” said Sen. Joe Kyrillos.

A veteran conservative voted yes, half-heartedly.

“This chief justice is better than many. But that isn’t saying an awful lot because we’ve had some real clunkers,” Sen. Gerald Cardinale said.

The vote on Rabner was 29 in favor and 6 against.

Judge Lee Solomon, Christie’s other Supreme Court nominee, attended with his family and had an easier time of it.

His appointment was approved 34 to 2.

A former assemblyman and BPU president, he was praised by his legislative running mate of 20 years ago.

“I guess I always knew he had lots of potential. But here we are seeing the ultimate for him and I’m very pleased for him,” said Allen.

The Senate then took up Senate President Steve Sweeney’s bill to reshape the governing boards at Rutgers University.

The controversial legislation has been through changes, and after it passed here 22 to 13 today, Sweeney said he’d hold off sending it to the Assembly for 90 days to give the Rutgers boards more time to implement recommendations from their own internal report on school governance.

And the Senate unanimously approved the compromise recently announced on a 2 percent cap for police and fire salary arbitration cases.

The compromise basically preserves the cap.