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Former Superior Court Judge Marina Corodemus, left, and former Supreme Court Justice John E. Wallace, Jr.

N.J. Supreme Court will pick tiebreaker on congressional redistricting

Both parties nominate retired judges — Wallace and Corodemus — as 13th member

By David Wildstein, July 15 2021 2:51 pm

The New Jersey Supreme Court will pick a tiebreaker on a commission to draw congressional districts after the two political parties were unable to agree upon a consensus choice prior to Thursday’s deadline.

In a 6-6 vote along party lines, the Congressional Redistricting Commission will submit former New Jersey Supreme Court Justice John E. Wallace, Jr. and former Superior Court Judge Marina Corodemus as their candidates for the independent 13th member of the commission.

Wallace came from the Democrats and Corodemus from the Republicans.

All seven members of the Supreme Court must vote choose between Wallace and Corodemus before August 10.

That puts the top court in the potentially precarious role of choosing between preferred choices of Democrats and Republicans.  Justices rarely vote along party lines and on hugely political votes traditionally will voice their views behind closed doors and rally behind the majority in a public vote.

The stakes are high when it comes to congressional redistricting.  A flip of just five seats could result in a change of party control in the U.S. House of Representatives.   In New Jersey, Republicans have lost three seats since the last map was approved – a process that had generally been viewed as a GOP win.

Wallace served as a New Jersey Supreme Court Justice from 2003 to 2010 and previously served as a Superior Court from 1984 to 1992 and Appellate Court Judge from 1992 to 2003. He is counsel at Brown and Connery, a politically active South Jersey law firm.

Corodemus served as a Superior Court Judge from 1993 to 2004 and was the first Greek American to serve in that post.  She was New Jersey’s sole mass torts judge and is now a national leader on Alternative Dispute Resolution.   Her brother, Steven Corodemus, served as a Republican assemblyman from 1992 to 2008.

She was named Best Individual Arbitrator by the New Jersey Law Journal in 2017, the ADR Champions Trailblazer by the National Law Journal in 2016, Best Individual Mediator by New Jersey Women Leaders in the Law in 2016, Best Individual Mediator by the National Law Journal in 2015, and Diverse Attorneys of the Year, New Jersey Law Journal, 2015.

Democrats had narrowed their list to three retired Justices: Chief Justice Deborah Poritz, Associate Justice Virginia Long, and Wallace.  Republicans had just Corodemus on their final list as of earlier today.

This is the first time the full court will pick a congressional tiebreaker.

In 1991, 2001 and 2011, the two parties came up with a consensus choice that spared the justices from having to make a Solomonic choice.

So far, tiebreakers for legislative redistricting since 1981 and congressional since 1991 have been white men who come academia.

Alan Rosenthal, a political scientist who ran the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers for nearly 20 years, was the tiebreaker for congressional in 1991 and 2001. John Farmer, while serving as Dean of Rutgers Law School in Newark, was the 13th member of the congressional commission in 2011.

The first joint meeting of the full Congressional Redistricting Commission was conducted behind closed doors.

The Democratic panel are: Iris Delgado, the executive director of the Middlesex County Democratic organization; Janice Campbell Fuller, a former chief of staff to House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone; State Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Long Branch); Stephanie Lagos, the chief of staff to First Lady Tammy Murphy; Camden County Commissioner Jeff Nash; Dana Redd, a former state senator and Camden mayor.

The Republicans on the commission are:  former Republican State Chairman Doug Steinhardt and GOP State Committee Vice Chair Lynda Pagliughi, appointed by outgoing GOP State Chairman Michael Lavery; Westfield Councilman Mark LoGrippo and former Christie administration office Jeanne Dovgala Ashmore, named by Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean, Jr.; and Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick’s picks: Assembly Minority Executive Director Mark Duffy and Michele Albano, a Republican fundraiser.

Fuller is the Democratic chair and Steinhardt is the GOP chair.

“It is an honor to propose Judge Corodemus for the role of 13th member to the New Jersey Congressional Redistricting Commission,” Steinhardt said. “She is uniquely qualified for this role as one of the most respected mediators in the country. I am grateful that Judge Corodemus is willing to continue her legacy of public service and confident that she is the best person to bring all parties to the table to help create the fairest map for the people of New Jersey.”

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