NJ Dems Block Nomination of ‘Inexperienced’ Gay Judge


New Jersey’s Democratic Senators on Thursday blocked 7-6 the supreme court judge nominee Bruce Harris from taking the bench.

Being both black and gay, Harris’ nomination by Governor Christie had seen Christie praised in the media, though the shine quickly wore off once Harris announced that he planned to recuse himself from same-sex marriage cases so as to retain public confidence in his impartiality.

This and Harris’ lack of litigation experience saw the Senate Judiciary panel conclude that the Republican Chatham Borough mayor was unsuitable for the bench.

Reports the New York Times:

But under questioning, he acknowledged that there was little in the way of writing that senators could examine to evaluate his legal thinking. He had rarely even appeared in court, except, he said, to do some pro bono work on drunken-driving cases.

“I’m not going to try to pretend that I have experience in the court or that I’ve been a litigator,” Mr. Harris said. He argued, though, that he had a background in municipal government that none of the current justices have, which would serve the court well.

Mr. Harris said that given the “hype” around same-sex marriage, and polls showing the public divided on the issue, he wanted citizens to believe that he was making decisions impartially and that his past advocacy — he had sent an e-mail to legislators and held a fund-raiser to support legalization efforts — would not undermine that confidence.

Democratic legislators prodded Mr. Harris that if this is true he should also recuse himself from collective bargaining cases, which he had also campaigned on.

Mr. Harris attempted to draw distinctions between the two issues but Democratic senators remained unconvinced, implying that the only difference was that, unlike same-sex marriage, Governor Chris Christie didn’t entirely oppose collective bargaining talks.

Republican legislators attempted to sidestep this issue.

Reports NJ.com:

On the recusal issue, Sen. Christopher “Kip” Bateman (R-Somerset) came to Harris’ defense, saying a court ruling requires judges to recuse themselves on some matters.

But when Harris said he wasn’t aware of the ruling, Sen. Nia Gill (D-Essex) said she was even more troubled.

“That’s why your recusal is more disturbing — because you’re not a judge and you have already actively taken yourself out of the process,” Gill said. “Is your recusal political?”

Despite Republican senators trying to convince Democrats that a lack of litigation experience wasn’t necessarily a hindrance, they managed only to bring round one Democratic legislator to their way of thinking.

Governor Christie’s office has not directly commented on Thursday’s hearings, though he earlier rejected the accusations he had strategically placed Harris, saying in a statement that Democratic senators seemed to have thrown to the wind diversity and legal qualifications so they could play politics. Christie has long complained that the current crop of Supreme Court justices is too liberal.

Mr. Harris would have been the first openly gay black judge in New Jersey history.

Republican lawmakers in Virginia recently blocked a judge’s nomination on the sole grounds that he was a “gay activist.”


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Image used under the Creative Commons Attribution License with thanks to s falkow.


Beth Davis
Beth D5 years ago

Code word for inexperienced = FAIR MINDED!

Joshua K.
Joshua K5 years ago

Christie nominated this guy as a token appointment. It was a slap in the face the same way Clarence Thomas's appointment was. Bush the Elder, Bush I appointed Thomas as a replacement for Thurgood Marshall who had passed away. It would be like appointing Homer Simpson as Vice-President to replace Joe Biden.

Charles P.
Charles P5 years ago

What we do know for certain is that the Dems did not oppose him because he is black nor did they oppose him because he is a homosexual. They did seem to oppose him because he has no backbone. This would make him a perfect foil for (fill in your favorite slur) Christie.

Mari Garcia
Mari Garcia5 years ago

I honestly think he wasn't picked because he did not have enough time in. Maybe he should do more cour time, move up the latter and try again.

Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle5 years ago

Can't say if he's liberal/activist/conservative, but he certainly does not seem to be qualified to judge cases, based on his lack of courtroom time. I would have vetoed his confirmation also, and it's not political.

Johnice R.
Johnice R5 years ago

Wording this article to imply that Dems are acting in less than good faith when they reject a nominee who has more flaws than than Gingrich and Limbaugh have had wives is laughable.

I am so tired of this senseless political battle, and did not want to leave this till the morning, I now need not invest any emotion in this topic which appears to be a waste of time, as a read and much less a comment. Maybe Care2 should stick to Causes and leave the opinion articles to others in the media.

Jamie Clemons
Jamie Clemons5 years ago

well get some experience and try again.

Lloyd H5 years ago

Let's be honest, the appointment by Fat Ass Christie was political the rejection was based on the fact that he not qualified and seems to have no intention of sitting on any case that might have any political implications related to his race, sexual preference, political views or being a human, any judge following the same recusal standards would decide nothing.

Jen Matheson
Past Member 5 years ago

"inexprienced" nothing. Sounds like they didn't want him becauuse he is a double minority.

Phil A.
Philip A5 years ago

Recusing himself from same-sex marriage cases implies that perhaps heterosexual judges should recuse themselves from heterosexual cases. Not only does he have a lack of experience, but he also lacks a spine.