The New Jersey Senate is expected to adjust its meeting schedule this month to fast track the expected nomination of Douglas M. Fasciale to the New Jersey Supreme Court, the New Jersey Globe has confirmed.
Gov. Phil Murphy plans to nominate Fasciale, a Republican from Westfield, to fill the open seat of Faustino Fernandez-Vina, who reached the mandatory retirement age of 70 last February.
The agreement Murphy reached with State Sen. Holly Schepisi (R-River Vale) to end a 17-month standstill and release the nomination of Rachel Wainer Apter for another Supreme Court vacancy includes an agreement that Wainer Apter and Fasciale would be considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee – and things go well for them – by the full Senate at the same time.
“This is a critical step in addressing an unprecedented level of vacancies on the Supreme Court,” former New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Peter Verniero told the New Jersey Globe. “And the public is well served by the commitment of our leaders to maintain the tradition of partisan balance on the Court. Hopefully, the Court will be at its full complement of seven permanent members as soon as practicable.”
Senate Minority Leader Steve Oroho said on Friday that Republicans still have questions about Wainer Apter, a former ACLU staff attorney and law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
“I appreciate Holly Schepisi’s efforts to ensure partisan balance is maintained on the New Jersey Supreme Court,” Oroho said. “I continue to have serious concerns about Rachel Wainer Apter’s history of radically progressive activism and the damage she could do in decades on the court.”
Wainer Apter and Fasciale could be the last Supreme Court nominations for State Sen. Michael Doherty (R-Oxford), the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Doherty is running for Warren County Surrogate this fall and will need to vacate his Senate seat in December to take his new officer.
A New Jersey Globe tally shows that Wainer Apter has the votes to win a bi-partisan confirmation. Republican State Sen. Robert Singer (R-Lakewood) was the first senator from either party to say that he would vote to confirm Wainer Apter, the day before Murphy nominated her in March 2021.
Fasciale, a former trial lawyer who has spent the last 18 years as a Superior Court Judge – he was temporarily assigned to the Supreme Court effective yesterday, is certain to coast through the Senate once he’s nominated.
“Doug Fasciale was born a judge. Anybody who knows him knows he’s extremely professional. He’s the best of the best,” said State Sen. Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield). “It doesn’t get any better than Doug Fasciale.”
Senate President Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden), who advocated for Fasciale with the governor’s office, told the New Jersey Globe that movement on filling two open Supreme Court seats will allow the process of filing Superior Court vacancies to proceed more rapidly. About 15% of the state court seats are vacant.