Senate President Nicholas Scutari today praised Gov. Phil Murphy’s nomination of Michael Noriega to the New Jersey Supreme Court but stopped short of making an immediate endorsement.
“I am proud to have another Supreme Court nominee from Union County, particularly from my home district,” Scutari told the New Jersey Globe. “Mr. Noriega is a skilled attorney who is respected within the legal community. He has extensive experience representing clients in the courtroom as a private attorney and a public defender.”
Still, Scutari hinted that he’s not ready to rush into offering a quick pronouncement of support.
“I look forward to considering his nomination in the coming week,” he said.
In his statehouse announcement today, Murphy said Scutari was a “big fan” of Noriega. But Murphy did not indicate that Scutari was a yes.
For Noriega to win Senate confirmation, Scutari’s backing is crucial.
Under the unwritten rule of senatorial courtesy, Noriega’s nomination can’t advance to the upper house without signoff from the three senators representing Union County – Noriega lives in Fanwood. Scutari is one of the three.
Moreover, no gubernatorial nominee can move through the Senate without the backing of the Senate President. Scutari controls the agenda.
The conventional wisdom is that Scutari will support Noriega, his constituent and a Democrat; Noriega has the kind of courtroom experience Scutari has sought in judicial nominees. His language — “I look forward to considering his nomination in the coming weeks” — is consistent with past comments by Senate leaders.
Noriega has already won three public endorsements from senators, eighteen short of his magic number, which must also include State Sen. Joseph Cryan (D-Union).