Two new members join New Jersey’s Supreme Court

Exterior of The Richard J. Hughes Complex, located in Trenton. photo by Mary Iuvone

Democrats have a majority in the state Senate but they confirmed one Democrat and one Republican to fill two of three vacancies on the state’s highest court, in keeping with a long tradition of bipartisanship.

Gov. Phil Murphy nominated Rachel Wainer Apter and Douglas Fasciale, who were each confirmed by lawmakers after a deal was struck to release a hold on one of the nominees that was imposed with an unwritten rule that allows even one senator to block an appointment.

Wainer Apter was the head of the civil rights division in the Department of Law and Public Safety and she previously served as counsel to the state attorney general.

Fasciale was assigned to a temporary seat on the Supreme Court since previous members reached the mandatory retirement age of 70. He served as a judge on the Appellate Division since 2010 and was a state Superior Court judge from 2004 to 2010.

Murphy put Wainer Apter, a Democrat, forward for the job in 2021, but her nomination was held up by a Republican state senator who ultimately used senatoral courtesy—her veto power under the unwritten rule— to force Murphy to nominate Fasciale, who is a Republican.

New Jersey governors traditionally appoint no more than four members from their own party to the seven-member panel.

“This prevents the Court from lurching too far in one direction or the other. It forces Governors to select nominees from among the best lawyers and judges in the state, regardless of party,” Murphy said when he appointed Fasciale.

The Supreme Court has one more vacancy, but Murphy has not yet forwarded a name to the Senate for confirmation.

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