Obstacle removed to Rabner confirmation

Obstacle removed to Rabner confirmation

Earlier this week, when it looked like the confirmation of Stuart Rabner as chief justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court might be held up indefinitely, Gov. Jon S. Corzine reiterated his support for the attorney general.

With opposition to his nomination withdrawn, Rabner was widely expected to be confirmed as chief justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court.

"No one feels more strongly that Attorney General Rabner should be chief justice than Jon Corzine," said Gloria Montealegre, the governor’s deputy press secretary. "No one is working harder or is more passionate about [Rabner] being the chief justice," she told The Jewish Standard on Tuesday.

Corzine’s statement of support came in the midst of a stalemate, as state Sen. Nia Gill (D-Essex) invoked "senatorial courtesy" (an unwritten New Jersey tradition holding that senators may block the gubernatorial nomination of anyone from their home county) to stall Rabner’s nomination for 16 days. Rabner, the former assistant U.S. attorney who was confirmed by the state Senate as attorney general 10 months ago, lives in Caldwell, in Essex County.

Montealegre stressed that the governor was "working in a reasoned and responsible way to bring together a consensus of all those who have a voice in this matter…. That said," she noted, "we will continue to move forward in this process in a responsible manner with our legislative partners to gain his confirmation."

Whether because of the governor’s influence or the results of a Tuesday morning meeting between Rabner and Gill, the senator dropped her opposition later that day. David Wald, Rabner’s spokesman, told the Standard that the attorney general would not be issuing a statement following the meeting. Nor did Gill announce her own reversal. Instead, word of her changed position came from other state officials.

The Senate Judiciary Committee rescheduled Rabner’s confirmation hearing for Thursday (it was originally scheduled for Monday), and it was widely expected that he would sail through the proceedings. Senate President Richard J. Codey (D-Essex) said he anticipated that the full senate would also confirm the nomination on Thursday. If confirmed, Rabner would replace Chief Justice James Zazzali, who has reached the mandatory retirement age of 70.

While Gill never publicly explained her concerns about the nomination — despite the fact that the governor repeatedly said the public deserved an explanation — the Star Ledger reported that she complained to colleagues about "Rabner’s inexperience in civil law, the way the nomination was handled by the Corzine administration, as well as a lack of diversity on the court."

Gill is one of two African-American women in the state Senate. According to the Star Ledger, her position on Rabner was endorsed on Monday by the Association of Black Women Lawyers of New Jersey, whose spokesman questioned the attorney general’s managerial experience.

In nominating Rabner as chief justice earlier this month, Corzine called him "one of the top legal minds in New Jersey and one of the finest public servants our state has to offer."

Rabner attended Princeton University, followed by Harvard Law. He served in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark from 1986 through ‘005, when Corzine selected him as his chief counsel, later nominating him for the job of attorney general. Following Sept. 11, ‘001, Rabner supervised the U.S. Attorney’s Office investigation in New Jersey, working at a joint command post with federal, state, and local enforcement officials. Earlier in his career, Rabner was a lead attorney for the organized crime drug enforcement task force, prosecuting money laundering and drug trafficking cases.

The attorney general, who grew up in Passaic, maintains ties to the Jewish community as the chairman of the Holocaust Resource Center of the Jewish Federation of Greater Clifton-Passaic, where he has organized the center’s annual Holocaust commemoration since its inception 18 years ago. His parents are survivors of the Holocaust.

Josh Lipowsky contributed to this report.

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