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NJ Supreme Court Nomination Approved by Senate Panel [AUDIO]

On Monday, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the re-nomination of New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, after a deal brokered by the offices of Gov. Chris Christie and Senate President Stephen Sweeney that broke a logjam over high court nominees.

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State Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner
State Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner (Kevin McArdle, Townsquare Media NJ)

The panel also approved Christie’s nomination of Lee Solomon to be an associate justice.

If both are confirmed by the full Senate as expected, Rabner will be eligible to serve until reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70. Solomon, 59, is being nominated for an initial seven-year term.

Battles between Christie and the Democrat-controlled legislature have led to prolonged vacancies on the Supreme Court. Like Rabner, Solomon is expected to get full confirmation, but until he does there are still two vacancies on the court.

When asked about the vacancies, Rabner would not concede that the people of the state have suffered, but he did say he’d like to see a full complement of justices.

“I would say that it will be a healthy moment when we have a fully constituted court of confirmed justices who’ve gone through the nomination and confirmation process as laid out in the constitution,” Rabner said.

State Sen. Joe Kyrillos (R-Red Bank) was one of only two committee members to vote against Rabner’s tenure. He said not having a full seven-member Supreme Court is a crisis. Sen. Mike Doherty (R-Washington) was the other panel member to cast a no vote.

“We will do our best under any circumstances to meet the needs of our citizens and to address the cases, and do so in as professional a manner as possible, and we look forward to doing so at some point with seven fully confirmed members,” Rabner said.

Several issues were raised and addressed during the roughly four-hour hearing. Rabner said he could not support pay raises for judges during these difficult fiscal times. He also said he looks forward to participating in future cases involving the state’s school funding formula.

During his time as chief counsel and state Attorney General under former Gov. Jon Corzine, Rabner helped craft the school funding formula. For that reason he said he has had to recuse himself on occasions when the issue came before the Supreme Court.

In his monthly appearance on Townsquare Media’s “Ask the Governor” program Monday, Christie was asked about the remaining vacancy.

“We’ll take it one step at a time,” Christie said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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