On September 1, Justice Patterson assumed the Supreme Court seat being vacated by Justice Rivera-Soto. Today, she was publicly sworn in, at a ceremony at Trenton’s War Memorial to which I was fortunate enough to be invited. Chief Justice Rabner, who presided at the ceremony, joked that there were over 300 distinguished persons present, and more than 400 people in the room.
Governor Christie, the first speaker, was greeted by a standing ovation. He expressed his belief that, in appointing Supreme Court Justices, governors should appoint the best lawyers they know. The Governor recounted how he and Justice Patterson had been on the same side of “a big piece of litigation,” and that Justice Patterson, who was more experienced, had helped him along. He said that he knew of other good lawyers, but none better than Justice Patterson. In enumerating her many positive qualities, Governor Christie noted her “patience,” a reference to the fact that he had originally nominated Justice Patterson back in 2010 to assume Justice Wallace’s seat, which did not happen. The audience chuckled knowingly.
Senator Tom Kean, the Senate Minority Leader, followed the Governor. He noted that Justice Patterson had impressed senators of both parties, and that her confirmation hearing was the type of television that everyone should have been watching. As for himself, since both he and Justice Patterson are Dartmouth graduates, “she had [him] at ‘Dartmouth,'” paraphrasing the line from “Jerry Maguire.”
Before administering the oath of office, the Chief Justice noted that Justice Patterson had already begun her duties with the Court. As a result, he said, the Justices had learned that, besides her legal knowledge, Justice Patterson had great expertise in things such as birds and the order of royal succession in Great Britain. The Chief Justice pledged to assign any opinions on such topics, if they came before the Court, to Justice Patterson.
In her own remarks after taking the oath, Justice Patterson recognized the many members of her Murray family, ranging in age from 2 to 92, who were present. She also thanked her colleagues at the Riker Danzig firm, including her mentor (and former New Jersey Attorney General) Peter Perretti. But she gave the most special mention to Nicholas deB. Katzenbach, with whom she worked as a young lawyer at Riker, not only for his work there, but for advancing civil rights during his service in the federal government in the 1960’s. Justice Patterson said that it was such a pleasure to work directly with Katzenbach that she was “surprised that the firm paid” her to do that.
Justice Patterson also observed that, with her ascension, and with Judge Wefing having replaced Judge Stern in Justice Wallace’s seat, the Court now had a 5-2 female majority. That remark received enthusiastic applause, followed by laughter when Justice Patterson said that some people might, as a result, pity the Chief Justice and Justice Albin, the two male Justices.
It was a very pleasant ceremony, punctuated by an excellent rendition of “America the Beautiful” by the Tartan Tones, an all-female singing group from Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart, a school dear to Justice Patterson. Now the work of the Court year begins. Good luck, Justice Patterson.