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New Jersey Supreme Court-designate Rachel Wainer Apter on March 15, 2021.

Murphy mum on action to move Wainer Apter nomination

Scutari says she may not be confirmed by next New Jersey Supreme Court session

By Nikita Biryukov, May 17 2021 3:30 pm

Gov. Phil Murphy declined to say what he was doing to push state Supreme Court nominee Rachel Wainer Apter towards confirmation after Senate Judiciary Chairman Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden) said she may not be confirmed before the start of the high court’s next session.

“Nick Scutari has been a great partner to deal with across the whole range of interests, including judicial nominations,” the governor said. “Rachel, I’m incredibly proud and honored to have nominated her. I look forward to that process moving forward on the right timeframe and the right basis.”

Wainer Apter, a former ACLU attorney who is now director of the New Jersey Attorney General’s Division on Civil Rights, was nominated to fill Justice Jaynee LaVecchia’s seat on the court.

LaVecchia, a right-leaning independent, has announced she will step down at the end of August, years before the 66-year-old justice reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70. Scutari on Saturday said declined to say whether Wainer Apter’s nomination would clear the Senate by then.

“If someone is going to serve up to 30 years and perhaps, you know, I don’t think a few months here, there is going to make that big of a difference, quite frankly,” he said.

The biggest obstacle Wainer Apter faces on her path to confirmation is a new addition to the legislature’s upper chamber. State Sen. Holly Schepisi (R-River Vale) has yet to decide whether she’ll invoke senatorial courtesy over the nomination.

The unwritten but immovable rule allows senators to indefinitely block gubernatorial nominations from their home county. They are not required to give a reason when erecting such a roadblock.

Schepisi, who was elected by the Republican County Committee people in the 39th legislative district to fill late State Sen. Gerald Cardinale’s (R-Demarest) seat, is the only Republican with courtesy over the Englewood resident’s confirmation.

State Sen. Joe Lagana (D-Paramus) is the only senator living in Bergen County to sign off on Wainer Apter’s nomination so far, though there’s little reason to expect State Sens. Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck) and Paul Sarlo (D-Woodridge) won’t follow suit down the line.

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