The swearing in of two new associate justices of the New Jersey Supreme Court today leaves just one seat open for an appellate court judge to be temporarily assigned.
Judge Clarkson Fisher, Jr., who is the most senior member of the appellate court, today abdicated his temporary assignment, clearing the way for another judge, Jack Sabatino, to serve on the state’ top court until Gov. Phil Murphy picks a permanent replacement for Justice Barry Albin.
Fisher reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70 on November 29 and would have been forced to give up his assignment anyway. His decision to waive seniority allows Sabatino to continue his Supreme Court duties.
Fisher, Sabatino and Douglas Fasciale were assigned to the Supreme Court on September 1. Murphy later nominated Fasciale to the top court and the Senate unanimously confirmed him to replace Justice Faustino Fernandez-Vina, who reached the mandatory retirement age in February.
Another Murphy pick, Rachel Wainer Apter, was also confirmed this week after a wait that began in March 2021. She replaces Justice Jaynee LaVecchia, who retired at the end of last year.
Sabatino is one of four Harvard Law School graduates to serve in the New Jersey Judiciary; two others, Chief Justice Stuart Rabner and Wainer Apter, are on the Supreme Court. The fourth, Superior Court Judge Gary Wilcox, is assigned to the criminal division in Bergen County.
The 64-year-old Sabatino could remain on the top court until February 2028, if governors and the Senate can’t agree on a successor for Albin.
The assignment of Sabatino gives Democrats a 4-3 majority on the current court. Albin is a Democrat.