New Jersey's 16th Legislative District

Senator Kip Bateman

Senator Kip Bateman

Rumor, Lie Blocked Kwon’s Nomination to NJ Supreme Court

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The following editorial by Senator Christopher “Kip” Bateman, R-16, and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was published in the April 2, 2012 edition of the Courier-Post:

On Thursday, March 23rd, 2012, an exceptionally well qualified nominee to the Supreme Court was rejected by the petty partisan whims of the Democrats in the New Jersey State Senate. Phillip Kwon, a decorated prosecutor who has put corrupt public officials in jail and led the fight against street gangs in our state, was denied a job for which he was clearly qualified — Associate Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court — for no good reason at all.

It was a tragedy for the judicial system in our state because Mr. Kwon’s nomination was blocked not based on his qualifications, but on rumor, innuendo, and an outright lie.

Instead of interviewing Kwon on the merits of his distinguished education, legal experience, and long history of public service, the Democrats tried to fool people into thinking there was something wrong with the candidate’s character and ethics.

How? By doing what any bully would — spending hours hurling irrelevant and disproved allegations about Kwon’s mother’s New York business.

Never mind that Mr. Kwon had nothing to do with the operation of that business. Never mind that it was a civil, not criminal, complaint that never once mentioned Mr. Kwon. Democrats were hell bent on making Mr. Kwon responsible for one lawsuit filed not against himself, but members of his family.

After Kwon endured the insult of having his integrity questioned with poise and grace, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that their insinuations about his character were baseless, the Democrats tried to make a case against the nominee based on the unwritten rule of the High Court’s partisan makeup.

And that’s where the lie comes in.

Democrats howled that Mr. Kwon’s nomination would “pack” the Court with Republicans and upset the tradition of having no more than four judges from either political party. Democrats make this assertion by counting Justice Jaynee LaVecchia as a Republican for perhaps the first time in her 12 years of service on the Supreme Court.

Finding out that she is a Republican would likely be news to Justice LaVecchia, who has been unregistered with either political party for decades. Governor Whitman nominated LaVecchia not based on party affiliation, but because of her talent as a lawyer and precisely because of her independence from the political parties.

She’s not a Republican, and the Democrats know it.

Democrats have controlled the state’s High Court with four justices in 50 of the last 64 years, with many of their nominees approved with votes from Republicans who vehemently disagreed with those nominees’ judicial philosophy. Democrats gave the Kwon nomination no such objective look, but now want people to believe they have the highest regard for balance?

The Court is presently comprised of three registered Democrats, two registered Republicans and one registered Independent. Even if two Republican nominees were to be approved, the Court would swing to four Republicans, two Democrats and one Independent — well within the definition of balance as it has been known for over half a century.

To claim otherwise doesn’t pass the laugh test.

In nominating Phil Kwon, the Governor offered New Jersey a Georgetown and Rutgers educated attorney who chose to forgo the fortune of a career in private practice to serve our state and country, and who if confirmed would have maintained the traditional partisan balance of the Court.

The Governor also cooperated with the demands of Senate Democrats for nominees who could make the Supreme Court more diverse. Mr. Kwon would have been the first Asian-American on the Court.

And, yes, the Governor made a nomination that fulfilled his promise to New Jersey taxpayers to re-make our out of control Supreme Court by filling vacancies with judges who, regardless of their political party, have a respect for the limits of their own power. That promise earned the approval of New Jersey voters when they elected Chris Christie governor of New Jersey, and can hardly be seen as a threat to the independence or partisan balance of the judiciary.

Had Democrats considered the nomination on its merits, Phil Kwon would have sailed to confirmation. Instead, a top-notch lawyer was humiliated by a bunch of politicians out for blood.

Seven Democrats on the Judiciary Committee voted to reject Kwon to take a political shot at the Governor to please their party leaders and special interest supporters.

Our government is supposed to be better than this, especially when it comes to our system of justice.

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