John M. Becker

Lambda Legal Knocks Chris Christie for Politicizing the Courts

Filed By John M. Becker | May 06, 2014 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Chris Christie, gay marriage, independent judiciary, judicial independence, judicial nominees, marriage equality, New Jersey, same-sex marriage, Supreme Court

chris_christie.jpgLambda Legal is going on the offensive against New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, teaming up with legal groups, unions, and advocacy organizations in the Garden State on a campaign urging him to stop playing politics with the state Supreme Court. The court currently has two vacancies and a third justice, Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, is up for reappointment.

In a press release, Lambda Legal explains the problem, and what it has to do with LGBT rights:

In 2010, Gov. Christie became the first New Jersey governor since the ratification of the New Jersey constitution in 1947 to not reappoint a sitting Supreme Court justice. Many reacted with shock when he chose to end the service of Justice John Wallace, a respected jurist and the New Jersey Supreme Court's only African-American justice. In 2012, the governor declined to reappoint another sitting Supreme Court member, Justice Helen Hoens. There are currently two vacancies on the seven-member Court; if Justice Rabner is not reappointed, the state's highest court will have three vacancies and only four justices.

Lambda Legal and other advocates for fair courts are concerned that Gov. Christie will once again play politics with the Court, this time regarding the reappointment of Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, author of an October 2013, decision in Garden State Equality v. Dow that was instrumental in providing the freedom for same-sex couples to marry in the state. Gov. Christie roundly criticized the ruling.

The groups worry that, just like with Justices Wallace and Hoens, Governor Christie will maliciously remove Chief Justice Rabner from the bench by refusing to reappoint him, in retaliation for Rabner's pro-marriage equality ruling.

"If a law unconstitutionally discriminates against people or deprives them of equality or liberty, it is a judge's duty to strike that law down," said Eric Lesh, Lambda Legal's Fair Courts Project Manager. "Whether it's the freedom to marry, affordable housing or equality in education, the people of New Jersey need to trust that the courts will safeguard their constitutional rights. We do not want judges looking over their shoulders to make sure they aren't deciding a case in a way that is at odds with a governor's political agenda."

The campaign released a video outlining Chris Christie's disturbing history of strong-arming the judiciary in New Jersey. It's called "Bullying the Bench," and it's after the jump.

There is also a petition concerned citizens can sign urging Christie to preserve judicial independence. Click here if you'd like to read and sign.

h/t: Joe. My. God.

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