Jessica M. Karmasek Oct. 3, 2013, 5:45pm

TRENTON, N.J. (Legal Newsline) -- A hearing has been scheduled for one of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's state Supreme Court nominees.

According to NewsWorks, the Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing for Oct. 17 on Judge Faustino Fernandez-Vina's nomination to the state's high court.

Christie, whose previous attempts to fill the vacant seats on the state's high court have failed, nominated Fernandez-Vina in August.

The Cuban-born Republican has served as a judge on the New Jersey Superior Court since July 2004.

"In the words of the late Sen. John Adler, Judge Fernandez-Vina had 'the highest level of competence and he's just the total package,'" Christie said in August.

"Last year Chief Justice (Stuart) Rabner named Judge Fernandez-Vina the assignment judge of the Camden Vicinage. At that time, the chief justice said the following, 'Judge Fernandez-Vina brings to the position of assignment judge a wealth of experience, a proven, practical approach to addressing issues, superb judgment and the respect of the bench and bar.' Those are his words not mine."

Christie said he couldn't agree more.

"Beyond his time in public life Judge Fernandez-Vina had 22 years of private sector legal experience where he tried in excess of 100 cases and was a certified civil trial attorney certified by the New Jersey Supreme Court," the governor said, noting the judge's "deep roots" in the state.

Hearings have not been set for Christie's two other nominees to the high court, Robert Hanna and David Bauman.

Christie nominated Hanna, president of the state Board of Public Utilities and an Independent, and Bauman, a Monmouth County Superior Court judge and a Republican, in December 2012.

"We can pick any one of the three," committee chairman Nick Scutari told NewsWorks.

"We don't have an obligation to give anyone a hearing, and this is the one that we decided."

Christie's previous attempts to fill the two vacant seats on the court have failed. The judiciary committee rejected both of his nominees, including Chatham Mayor Bruce Harris.

The committee, which is controlled by Democrats, voted 7-6 against Harris. It wants Christie, a Republican, to nominate at least one Democrat to the state's high court.

Harris, a finance attorney of 20 years, would have been the third African-American and first openly gay member of the Court.

Also last year, the committee voted 7-6 against Assistant Attorney General Philip Kwon.

The committee had issues with the fact that neither Kwon nor Harris had ever worked as a judge before.

Christie has said the stalemate over court nominations boils down to party politics.

"I think these are folks who are just looking for excuse to vote against a Republican on the Supreme Court," the governor said last year, following the vote on Harris' nomination.

If confirmed, Fernandez-Vina would be only the second Latino in the state's history to serve on the Supreme Court.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at

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