Gov. Phil Murphy appeared to commit to renominating Rachel Wainer Apter to the New Jersey Supreme Court if she is not confirmed by the State Senate and he wins a second term Wednesday.
“I have been, I continue to be and I will be a huge supporter of Rachel Wainer Apter,” Murphy said at the day’s virus briefing. “And I want to thank the Senate president as well as the chair of Judiciary Committee, Senators Sweeney and Scutari for working with us so effectively on a lot of different avenues.”
The nomination of Wainer Apter, who is currently director of the Division of Civil Rights, is in a curious sort of limbo.
Though she’s been put up for retiring Justice Jaynee LaVecchia’s seat, it’s not likely she’ll be confirmed before LaVecchia steps down at the end of August.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden) in late June told the New Jersey Globe she was unlikely to be confirmed before the start of the high court’s new session in September, though it’s probable she’ll wait months longer for a hearing before the judiciary panel.
The legislature is on its customary summer break, and Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) has said his chamber has no plans to reconvene for a voting session before November’s election. If she’s not confirmed in lame duck, Murphy would have to put her up for the seat again.
Gubernatorial nominations that haven’t been approved by the Senate expire with the end of a legislative session.
There are other matters complicating Wainer Apter’s path to the Supreme Court. Chief among them is senatorial courtesy, an unwritten but immovable rule that allows senators to indefinitely block gubernatorial nominees from their home county and from towns in their district.
Two of the state’s four Bergen County senators, Sens. Joe Lagana (D-Paramus) and Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck), have signed off on Wainer Apter’s nomination.
Sens. Paul Sarlo (D-Woodridge) and Holly Schepisi (R-River Vale) have not. As the only Republican with courtesy over Wainer Apter, Schepisi could prove an insurmountable hurdle. But that’s only if the nominee is unwilling to move out of Bergen County.
Murphy, at the least, is a little more optimistic.
“I continue to be not only a huge fan and supporter but quite optimistic we’ll get to a good result,” he said.