After NJ Justice Refuses to Rule in Some Divided Cases, Senate Urges His Resignation
Posted Feb 18, 2011 11:55 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss
Updated: A New Jersey state supreme court justice who has refused to rule in some divided cases is being urged to resign by the state Senate.
The nonbinding resolution, citing the sense of the Senate, says Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto’s pledge to abstain from the cases is “a serious violation of the public trust,” according to the New Jersey Law Journal and NJ.com.
Rivera-Soto said in a December opinion that he believes the court is "unconstitutionally constituted” because one of the justices was temporarily appointed. Last month Rivera-Soto said he would refuse to rule only in cases where the temporary justice, Judge Edwin Stern of the appellate division, is the swing vote.
The court’s chief justice appointed Stern to temporarily sit on the high court after Gov. Chris Christie refused to re-appoint Justice John Wallace Jr., saying he wanted to change the activist court. The Senate did not act on Christie's new nominee, Anne Patterson, a partner in a Morristown law firm who is a Republican.
Most Democrats supported the resolution and most Republicans did not vote, NJ.com says. One Republican state senator said he urged everyone in his party not to vote because the Senate would have to try Rivera-Soto if he were impeached, according to the New Jersey Law Journal.
Updated on Feb. 22 to clarify that Anne Patterson is Gov. Christie's new nominee.