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Retired New Jersey Superior Court Judge Philip Carchman. (Photo: New Jersey Bar Association.)

Carchman named as legislative redistricting tiebreaker

By Joey Fox, October 07 2021 12:20 pm

Chief Justice Stuart Rabner today picked Philip Carchman, a former administrative director of the courts and state appellate court judge, as the 11th tiebreaking member of the state’s Legislative Apportionment Commission.

Carchman, 79,  was not among the 11 candidates submitted by Democrats and Republicans in August. Because the two parties could not agree on a final member, they asked Rabner to appoint an independent member to the commission instead.

“Among other praiseworthy qualities, Judge Carchman’s record of service reveals his dedication to our State and his ability to represent the best interests of the people,” Rabner said in a statement. “I am grateful he has agreed to serve as the eleventh member of the Legislative Apportionment Commission.”

Carchman was appointed Mercer County Prosecutor by Gov. Brendan Byrne in 1981 and to the Superior Court by Gov. Tom Kean in 1986. He was elevated to the appellate division in 1997, and became administrative director of the courts in 2004.

In early August, the Supreme Court chose John Wallace as the tiebreaking member of the Congressional Redistricting Commission, which similarly experienced a deadlock between the two parties. In that case, however, the Supreme Court was required to choose a tiebreaker from the two candidates submitted by the parties; for legislative redistricting, Rabner was unfettered in whom he could choose.

Carchman becomes the second Democrat to be named an independent redistricting tiebreaker.

Wallace, a former Supreme Court Justice who was tossed from the bench by GOP Gov. Chris Christie, is affiliated with a South Jersey law firm headed by William Tambussi, the counsel to the Camden County Democratic organization for the last 30 years. Tambussi is also Democratic powerhouse George Norcross’ personal attorney.  But Wallace has never been particularly active in politics.

Carchman began his career as a deputy attorney general under Gov. Richard J. Hughes, a Democrat. He later served as Princeton Municipal Court Judge and was Democratic Gov. Brendan Byrne’s pick to become Mercer County Prosecutor in 1981.

He hasn’t made a political donation since 1985.  He contributed to the gubernatorial campaigns of  Senate President Joseph Merlino (D-Trenton) and Attorney General John Degnan in 1981, and to former U.S. Attorney Robert Del Tufo’s unsuccessful bid for the 1985 Democratic nomination for governor.

In 1971, Carchman represented two Morris County Democrats who sued the Morris Democratic organization alleging that party bylaws that required candidates to participate in a a party screening committee violated state election laws. In another election matter that year, Carchman represented the League of Women Voters in a lawsuit against the Union County Democratic organization over filling legislative vacancies.

At the urging of Democratic State Sens. Gerald Stockman (D-Trenton) and Francis J. McManimon, Kean named him to the Superior Court.

Much later, in 2011, Carchman was one of three judges who ruled that Olympic track star Carl Lewis should be booted off the Democratic primary ballot for the 8th State Senate district because he failed to meet residency requirements. State Sen. Dawn Addiego (D-Evesham), then a Republican, went on to win unopposed.

Democrats had submitted eight choices for the legislative commission – former New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice James Zazzali, former state Supreme Court Justice Virginia Long, former acting Supreme Court Justice Mary Catherine Cuff, former Superior Court Judge Daniel Mecca, former Commissioner of Human Services Jennifer Velez, retired Rutgers professor Henry Coleman, Seton Hall Law School professor Paula Franzese, and Seton Hall political science professor Matt Hale – while Republicans only submitted three: former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff and former U.S. District Court Judges William Bassler and John Lifland.

The commission, with Carchman as its final member, will now be tasked with redrawing the state’s legislative district lines following the 2020 U.S. Census. Some districts, particularly in urban North Jersey and around fast-growing Lakewood, will have to shrink to maintain an ideal population, while others in South Jersey and elsewhere will have to grow.

The new district lines will also reflect the state’s recently implemented prison redistricting laws, which will move incarcerated individuals from their place of incarceration to their hometowns for redistricting purposes.

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