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Bridge-gate gives Democrats chance to come clean on NJ Supreme Court nominations

Governor Chris Christie has been under fire for the Bridge-gate scandal. But a full investigation may show that New Jersey Democrats may have participated in political payback as well.
Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

As the revelations about the Bridge-gate scandal continue to plague New Jersey governor Chris Christie, Jenna Portnoy of The Newark Star-Ledger writes about the culture of the current administration. Among the political payback that Portnoy outlines throughout the article, she highlights Christie's treatment of former governor Richard J. Codey.

Portnoy writes, "The governor also used his vast authority to cut off state Sen. Richard Codey’s security detail and fire two people close to the lawmaker after Christie accused Codey (D-Essex) of messing with one of his cabinet positions."

Curiously, Portnoy does not go into detail about the episode and simply mentions it in passing and provides no support to the allegations. Portnoy and other media outlets continue to err in its reporting by delving only half of the "politics" of New Jersey.

Maybe, Portnoy could discuss the issue of senatorial courtesy, and outline exactly what Dick Codey did. But doing so might destroy Portnoy's basic narrative of a complex situation.

For example, the New Jersey Constitution delegates responsibility for appointing justices to the state Supreme Court to the governor, with the advise and consent of the New Jersey Senate.

Retribution and political playback is at the heart of the Bridge-gate scandal. But those adjectives could equally describe the what Senate Democrats have done with Christie's Supreme Court appointees.

In May 2010, governor Chris Christie declined to reappoint justice John Wallace, which brought protests from the Democratic majority in the state Senate. According to Greg Richter of Newsmax, Rachel Maddow of MSNBC recently tied the lane closures at the George Washington Bridge to the supreme court nomination situation.

Maddow's theory is interesting and deserves further discussion, but don't count on the talk show host to tell the full story. To do so, would expose others to scrutiny about their political conduct.

For the record, Christie's first nomination, Helen Hoens, could not get a hearing. Additional nominees, Philip Kwon and Bruce Harris, were rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee, and so the New Jersey Supreme Court has been operating with two temporary justices for a while.

There were questions about the Kwon family finances, but the Harris nomination was rejected for purely political reasons.

In typical fashion, Maddow did not delve into detail about the lack of action to allow a sitting governor to appoint a nominee to the New Jersey Supreme Court, by continuing to hold the Wallace seat as hostage. Harris, who is African-American, would have been the first openly gay justice on the Court.

In various outlets, Christie has been vilified as a bully, a person willing to extract political payback at all costs. But the supreme court nomination process clearly shows that Senate Democrats are quite willing, and very able to play the same political games.

As the Bridge-gate scandal continues to evolve, perhaps the the public will find out that neither party is capable of claiming the high ground in this situation.

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