Home>Governor>Rabner announces he won’t fill Fernandez-Vina vacancy on Supreme Court

New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner. (Photo: Seton Hall University).

Rabner announces he won’t fill Fernandez-Vina vacancy on Supreme Court

Court will operate with six members until Senate confirms new nominees

By Joey Fox, February 16 2022 12:40 pm

New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner said today that he will not fill the vacancy left by Justice Faustino Fernandez-Vina, leaving the court with a complement of only six members until the State Senate confirms nominees to fill either Fernandez-Vina’s seat or that of retired Justice Jaynee LaVecchia.

“Since the adoption of the 1947 Constitution, Governors have abided by the tradition that no more than four members of the Supreme Court can be affiliated with a single political party,” Rabner said. “In keeping with that valued tradition, I am not assigning an additional member of the Appellate Division to fill the vacancy created by Justice Fernandez-Vina’s mandatory retirement.”

Last spring, LaVecchia announced her early retirement from the court, and Gov. Phil Murphy nominated Rachel Wainer Apter to replace her. But Wainer Apter’s nomination has struggled to move forward through the Senate, and when LaVecchia left the court at the end of 2021, Rabner elevated Superior Court Justice Jose Fuentes to take her spot until a permanent nominee is confirmed.

The court lost a second permanent member yesterday, when Fernandez-Vina hit the required retirement age of 70. Murphy has yet to nominate a replacement, and the Superior Court judge next in line to take Fernandez-Vina’s place, Clarkson Fisher Jr., would disturb the partisan balance of the court; Fisher was nominated as a Republican, but has since become a Democrat.

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