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State Sen. Nicholas Scutari. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Scutari self-quarantining after COVID exposure

Senate expected to quickly move Fernandez-Vina to tenured term on N.J. Supreme Court

By David Wildstein, October 22 2020 9:47 am

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Nicholas Scutari is self-quarantining after coming in contact with someone who subsequently tested positive for COVID.

“Out of an abundance of caution,” Scutari says he will not attend today’s Judiciary Committee meeting when the panel considers the renomination of New Jersey Supreme Court Associate Justice Faustino Fernandez-Vina.

Scutari told the New Jersey Globe that he is displaying no symptoms, but will following guidelines to isolate himself for fourteen days.  The senator said he found out on Monday and has tested negative for coronavirus twice.

Senate President Steve Sweeney is expected to chair the Judiciary Committee meeting in Scutari’s absence.

There is no reported opposition for Fernandez-Vina, widely known as Fuzzy, to receive a tenured term on the state’s top court.

Fernandez-Vina, a Republican, was nominated by Gov. Chris Christie on September 30, 2013 – 35 days before the gubernatorial election – and was easily confirmed by the Senate.  Gov. Phil Murphy announced this summer that he would renominate the justice.

Born in Cuba, Fernandez-Vina is the only Hispanic to ever serve on the New Jersey Supreme Court.

If confirmed by the full Senate, Fernandez-Vina will continue his service until February 15, 2022, when he reached the mandatory retirement age of 70.

That means the winner of the 2021 gubernatorial election will name his successor, unless he decides to step down early so that his replacement can serve the entirety of the 2021-2022 term that starts on September 1, 2021.

Such a move would create an election year Supreme Court appointment in New Jersey, something Murphy has opposed on the federal level.

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