New Jersey's Legislative Black Caucus today joined a chorus of minority, liberal and civil rights groups who oppose Gov. Chris Christie's two recent nominees to the state Supreme Court.
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"We are opposed to these most recent nominees because they do not represent the diversity gains made to the state Supreme Court in the past to reflect African-American and Latino participation," state Sen. Ron Rice (D-Essex) said in a statement. "To regress to the past practices of exclusion is a slap in the face to our years of struggle and fight for equality and justice for all people."
The announcement comes two weeks after Christie nominated David Bauman, a Japanese-American Superior Court judge, and Robert Hanna, who is president of the Board of Public Utilities, to the state high court.
Bauman, who was born in Japan, would be the first Asian-American on the court. Hanna, who is white, served for 16 years as a federal prosecutor, part of which overlapped with Christie's seven-year tenure as U.S. Attorney for New Jersey.
If confirmed, the nominees would leave the seven-member court with six white justices.
Dozens of organizations, ranging from the chapter of the AFL-CIO to the NAACP state conference, sent a letter to state senators on Sunday urging them to reject Bauman and Hanna. Christian Estevez, a Democrat who is executive vice president of the Latino Action Network, has called the nominees a disappointment.
The black caucus contends that Christie -- unlike former governors of both parties -- has not worked with lawmakers to make sure the court reflects the state's diversity.
"We have come too far to turn back now," said state Sen. Bonnie Watson-Coleman (D-Mercer), who is caucus vice chairwoman.
But Christie has said he tried to meet lawmakers' call for diversity with these nominees -- as well as earlier nominees Phillip Kwon and Bruce Harris. The Senate Judiciary Committee initially rejected Kwon, a Korean-born son of immigrants who was first assistant state attorney general, and then rebuffed Harris, an openly gay African-American, who is a registered Republican and mayor of Chatham Borough.
"They had a chance to confirm an African-American justice, a really qualified one, they chose to play politics instead and turned him down," Christie said when nominating Bauman and Hanna, according to a transcript provided by his office. "That's their choice."
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