After a lengthy hearing today, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to reject the nomination of Bruce Harris, the Republican Mayor of Chatham Borough , to a seat on the Supreme Court. The vote was 7-6. All Committee Republicans and Senator Brian Stack (D-Hudson) voted for the nomination, while all Democrats besides Stack voted against it.
The majority of the Committee focused on two things. First, as a transactional attorney, Harris has had little or no courtroom or other litigation experience. Second, he stated that he would recuse himself on same-sex marriage issues, a recusal that at least one Democrat questioned as possibly “political.”
Harris’s advocates contended that his transactional experience was as complex as litigation and demonstrated his intellectual fitness to sit on the Court. On the recusal issue, Harris is gay and had previously advocated for same-sex marriage. He expressed concern that the public might form the view that he was not impartial on the issue if he did not recuse himself.
This is the second Supreme Court nomination by Governor Christie that has not made it out of the Judiciary Committee. Philip Kwon was narrowly rejected earlier, based on concerns involving financial matters and his party affiliation. Before that, Anne Patterson, another Republican, was deservedly endorsed by the Committee and confirmed by the Senate in June 2011. It remains to be seen what the Governor will do to fill the vacant seats on the Court.