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Fabiana Pierre-Louis with her two sons after being nominated to the New Jersey Supreme Court by Governor Phil Murphy.

Sweeney tells top court pick she needs to be calling senators

Senate President hints that Pierre-Louis will get a hearing, says Senate working through the summer

By David Wildstein, June 29 2020 5:16 pm

Senate President Steve Sweeney has not yet met with New Jersey Supreme Court Justice-designate Fabiana Pierre-Louis, but won’t preclude a confirmation vote this summer as long as she completes all of the necessary groundwork to secure the support of key senators.

“I spoke to her on the morning that she was nominated, but she needs to meet with the Judiciary Committee, starting with the chair, Senator (Nicholas Scutari),” Sweeney said. “She needs to meet with all of the Judiciary members.  You need to get out of committee first.”

Gov. Phil Murphy nominated Pierre-Louis, a former federal prosecutor, to serve on the state’s top court on June 5.  She is slated to replace Associate Justice Walter F. Timpone, who reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70 on November 10.

Sweeney said his he’s been impressed with what’s he’s read about Pierre-Louis, who would become the first black woman on the state Supreme Court if she’s confirmed by the Senate, but said he’s not ready to make comment publicly about her chances at confirmation.

“I don’t know why anyone would think that she won’t get a hearing.  I don’t know why anyone would assume that,” Sweeney said.  “But I’m not going to announce any endorsement because I’m not trying to sway one way or the other.”

Pierre-Louis has the 21 votes needed for confirmation.   The New Jersey Globe has maintained a tally of senators and the count comes after reviewing public statements and following private conversations with senator.

Still, it doesn’t matter if Pierre-Louis’ whip count hits 38 – without Sweeney and Scutari, the nomination won’t move.

Friends of Timpone have told the Globe that the retiring justice, who did a four-year stint on the bench as a compromise pick between Sweeney and Gov. Chris Christie, is ready to depart a few months early to allow the Supreme Court to begin it’s next session on September 1 with Pierre-Louis in place.

Sweeney seems confident that the calendar can accommodate hearings, as long as Pierre-Louis does her due diligence.

“We’re going to be in session all summer because of the budget problem.  There’ll be Judiciary Committee hearings all summer long,” Sweeney said.  “We’ll be working all summer. There’s not going to be any break this year.”

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