Some have theorized that Christie’s refusal to re-nominate Associate Justice John Wallace was an an attempt to placate the right flank. By nominating a registered Republican ( even if she goes down, and by all accounts Anne Patterson won’t even get a hearing ) Christie can say, ‘hey, at least I tried to remake the court, but the Democrats went berzerk.’
Well, in talking to people on the right, and Republicans who are more centrist that does not appear to be the Governor’s motivation at all. Apparently, three weeks ago Christie invited Wallace for a one on one discussion at the State House. The meeting from, what I’m told, did not go well. As Christie pressed Wallace on why the court had reached certain decisions Wallace failed to answer within a strict constructionist view of the state constitution.
On more than one occasion, Wallace fell back on answers to questions about the application of the law with refrains like, “well, it’s simply an issue of fairness.” And when pressed on the legal justification, Wallace did not seem to have the answer.
I am told that Christie went into this informal interview with an open mind, but came out of it a bit puzzled. In other words, the whole supreme court flap does not appear to be a political calculation but rather another instance where Christie went with his instinct.
Democrats meantime fell into a war stance and some speculate that they are seeing this as their big “gotcha” with the freshman Governor rather than that high income earners surcharge as they had previously thought.
And a final thought…I know it’s been said everywhere else, but it is indeed very unusual for Chief Justice Rabner to weigh in on this ( as he did in a statement to the press and a letter to the Gov ). Christie and Rabner used to work together and are still said to be friendly. Although perhaps not anymore.
On the other hand, people in those tightly knit legal communities tend to stick together…just ask the Governor who brought the US Attorney front office down to Trenton. So maybe Rabner was just extending his friend John Wallace a courtesy by publicly rebuking his other friend the Gov. If anyone would understand that, it’s Christie.