Gov. Phil Murphy will announce Douglas R. Fasciale as his choice to serve as an associate justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court on Wednesday, the New Jersey Globe has confirmed.
Fasciale, a Republican, is Murphy’s pick to succeed Faustino Fernandez-Vina, who reached the mandatory retirement age of 70 seven months ago.
His nomination comes as a partial fix to an impasse between Murphy and the State Senate over Supreme Court nominations. The New Jersey Supreme Court has had three vacancies since July.
The New Jersey Globe first reported on September 2 that State Sen. Holly Schepisi (R-River Vale) would release her hold on the nomination of Rachel Wainer Apter to another Supreme Court seat, allowing Wainer Apter and Fasciale to move through the Senate in tandem.
Fernandez-Vina was a Republican and Schepisi, who had blocked Wainer Apter for more than 17 months, agreed to an accord that protected the partisan balance of the state’s highest court.
A former trial lawyer who has spent the last 18 years as a Superior Court Judge, the 61-year-old Fasciale has been temporarily assigned to the Supreme Court since September 1. He had been on top of the short list for the Republican seat since June, the New Jersey Globe first reported.
Fasciale is certain to coast through the Senate confirmation process with bipartisan support. He was originally recommended to Murphy by Senate President Nicholas Scutari and comes with strong support of State Sen. Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield).
Scutari has already taken steps to fast-track Fasciale’s confirmation, adding a quorum call of September 22 to the Senate schedule so that the nomination can be filed.
New Jersey State Bar Association Judicial and Prosecutorial Appointments Committee (JPAC) is expected to consider – and approve – Fasciale at their September 21 meeting.
Murphy is expected to formally nominate Fasciale on September 22, with the Senate Judiciary Committee tentatively set to hold confirmation hearings for Wainer Apter and Fasciale on October 13. The full Senate could vote on the two Supreme Court nominees that day.
The deal to move Wainer Apter and Fasciale together does not include a window to fill the seat of Barry Albin, who turned 70 on July 7. Albin is a Democrat, and for now his seat will remain empty.
The New Jersey Globe has confirmed that a Republican Justice, 68-year-old Lee Solomon, has indicated an interest in retiring early. That could allow Murphy to move another Democratic and Republican team at the same time.
But if Solomon does not retire, Murphy will need to decide if he’s going to keep Albin’s seat empty for two years.
Fasciale has served as presiding judge of the both the criminal and civil divisions in Union County before Rabner elevated him to the appellate division in 2010. He’s been a presiding judge of an appellate panel since 2019.
He could serve a little more than eight years on the state’s highest court before reaching the mandatory retirement age in November 2030. That would mean the winner of the 2029 gubernatorial election would name his replacement, unless the state passes a constitutional amendment raising the retirement age of judges before then, or if Fasciale declines to serve until his 70th birthday.
Wainer Apter, 42, is a former law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and worked as a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union. She can potentially spend the next 28 years on the New Jersey Supreme Court.
Gov. James E. McGreevey nominated Fasciale in 2004 at the recommendation of State Sen. Thomas Kean, Jr. (R-Westfield), following the retirement of Judge Edward Beglin. He received tenure in 2011.
Fasciale grew up in East Brunswick, attended Seton Hall University, clerked for Judge John Keefe, and became a partner at Hoagland, Longo, Moran, Dunst & Doukas, a politically influential New Brunswick law firm where he had extensive trial court experience. He also served as president of the Westfield Rotary Club.