N.J. chief justice temporarily assigns judges to SC

Jessica M. Karmasek Sep. 5, 2012, 2:45pm




TRENTON, N.J. (Legal Newsline) - New Jersey Chief Justice Stuart Rabner has temporarily assigned two Appellate Division judges to the state's high court.

In his two-page order Tuesday, Rabner said it was "necessary" to assign judges Ariel A. Rodriguez and Mary Catherine Cuff to serve temporarily on the Court to "address the Court's substantial workload with a full complement of seven individuals."

The chief justice pointed to the Court's handling of a "significant number of matters" during the 2011-2012 term.

According to his order, it resolved 1,148 petitions for certification, 596 motions and 115 disciplinary and character matters; heard arguments in 90 appeals and 30 attorney and judicial disciplinary matters; and filed 98 majority, per curiam, concurring and dissenting opinions.

Rabner said there was "no reason to anticipate a material reduction in the workload of the Court" during the upcoming term.

Rodriguez currently is the presiding judge of the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division, Part G. He has served as an appellate judge since September 1993 and as a presiding appellate judge since September 2004.

He received his law degree from Rutgers University at Camden.

Cuff is the presiding judge of the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division, Part B. She joined the division in September 1994 and became the presiding judge of Part B in September 2005.

She received her law degree from Rutgers University at Newark.

Rodriguez, a Republican, and Cuff, a Democrat, will fill two vacancies on the seven-member high court: those of Justice John Wallace, who Gov. Chris Christie decided not to renominate, and Justice Virginia Long, who is legally required to retire from the Court. She turned 70 years old this year.

Wallace's seat was filled temporarily by another Appellate Division judge, Dorothea O'C. Wefing. She was assigned to the Court in June 2011. However, she is facing mandatory retirement in Oct. 28.

Christie's attempts, thus far, to fill the two vacant seats have failed. The Senate Judiciary Committee rejected both of his nominees.

In May, the judiciary committee rejected the governor's nomination of 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, in March, the committee voted 7-6 against Christie's other nominee, 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, a Republican, 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 in May, following the vote on Harris' nomination.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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