Gov. Phil Murphy announced today that he will renominate Anne Patterson as an Associate Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court.
If Patterson is confirmed by the Senate, she will serve until 2029, when she reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70.
“I am pleased to uphold the practice of reappointing good, fair-minded and qualified justices, regardless of their party affiliation, to our New Jersey Supreme Court. This is a critical tenet of an independent judiciary that I fully intend to fulfill,” Murphy said. “Justice Patterson meets all of the prerequisites, and I am certain she will continue to serve the court and the residents of New Jersey with honor and integrity.”
Assuming no unexpected retirements, Murphy’s chance to name his own Justice will come in late 2020, when Associate Justice Walter Timpone turns 70.
Patterson was nominated for a seat on the top court in July 2010 when Gov. Chris Christie declined to renominate Justice John Wallace, a Democrat who was the only Black – and only South Jerseyan — on the Supreme Court. Christie said the court had become too liberal and decided to send a message by becoming the first governor to not reappoint a Justice after their initial term.
Senate President Steve Sweeney protested the dumping of Wallace by refusing to allow a confirmation vote on Patterson, who didn’t reach the bench until September 1, 2011 after Christie and Sweeney reached a compromise. Had Sweeney not done that, Christie would have been able to renominate her before he left office.
In New Jersey, Supreme Court Justices are first appointed for seven years; if renominated and reconfirmed by the Senate, they become tenured and may serve until they reach the mandatory retirement age of 70.
Murphy was expected to renominate Patterson.
While the state Constitution does not require a partisan balance on the Supreme Court, governors have traditionally sought a balance; right now, it is three Republicans, three Democrats and one Independent – although many Democrats consider Justice Jaynee LaVecchia, who worked for two Republican governor, to be a Republican appointee.