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Fabiana Pierre-Louis is nominated to the New Jersey Supreme Court by Governor Phil Murphy. (Photo: Chris Pedota.)

Murphy Supreme Court pick has the votes to win Senate confirmation

Fabiana Pierre-Louis still needs Senate President Steve Sweeney to hit the start button

By David Wildstein, June 26 2020 11:07 am

Gov. Phil Murphy’s nominee to the New Jersey Supreme Court, Fabiana Pierre-Louis, has the 21 votes needed to win confirmation by the New Jersey State Senate and could be on the top court by the star of the new session on September 1.

The New Jersey Globe has maintained a tally of senators since Murphy announced Pierre-Louis, a former federal prosecutor, as his choice for the Supreme Court three weeks ago today.  The count comes after reviewing public statements and following private conversations with senators.

No significant public opposition to Pierre-Louis has emerged, and the Judicial and Prosecutorial Advisory Committee has already considered her nomination and found her to be qualified.

While Senate President Steve Sweeney has not yet announced his support of Pierre-Louis – without it, no confirmation vote can be held – four sources with direct knowledge of the Senate confirmation process said that Sweeney has no real problem with the nomination.

“You know, it’s senators being senators.  That’s what we do,” one key legislator told the Globe.  “It’ll be good, you’ll see.”

There is a push to confirm Pierre-Louis this summer so that she can join the top court when their 2020-21 session begins on September 1.

The justice she would replace, Walter Timpone, is not due to retire until he turns 70 on November 1.  But Timpone has indicated through back-channels that he is willing to leave early if Pierre-Louis can get confirmed.

Timpone joined the top court in 2016 as a compromise pick between Sweeney and Gov. Chris Christie after political squabbling left the seat vacant for six years.

Now Timpone, his friends say, is anxious to return to private law practice and begin to fully monetize his Supreme Court experience.

The other major player in the process, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden), has not yet announced plans for a confirmation hearing.

Upon her confirmation, Pierre-Louis would become the first black women to serve on the New Jersey Supreme Court.

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