Christie taps nominee to bring ‘ethnic diversity’ to N.J. high court

 New Jersey Governor Christie nominates Judge Faustino Fernandez-Vina to the state Supreme Court.  (Phil Gregory/for NewsWorks)

New Jersey Governor Christie nominates Judge Faustino Fernandez-Vina to the state Supreme Court. (Phil Gregory/for NewsWorks)

Gov. Chris Christie, who says he will not renominate Justice Helen Hoens to New Jersey’s Supreme Court to spare her “awful” treatment at the hands of Democrats, has selected another Republican — Camden County Assignment Judge Faustino Fernandez-Vina — to replace her.

Despite her seven years of outstanding service on the state’s highest court, Christie said Monday he isn’t renominating Hoens because he expects Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee would block her confirmation in retribution for his decision three years ago not to reappoint Democrat John Wallace.

“I was not going to allow another person to be subjected to the awful treatment that was given to both Phil Kwon and to Bruce Harris,” the governor said of previous choices.

Even though those two nominees were rejected by the Judiciary Committee, and two more are still awaiting action, Christie said he’s hopeful Fernandez-Vina, who was born in Cuba and would be the state Supreme Court’s only Hispanic Justice, will prevail.

The governor said he based his choice on three factors.

“It was his experience both in the private sector as a trial judge and as an administrator. It was his ethnic background, which I though was very important in terms of diversity on the court,” Christie said. “And it’s the fact that I like this guy. I think he’s a good person.”

Fernandez-Vina is no stranger to lawmakers in the Senate.

“Given the fact that they just confirmed him for lifetime tenure in 2011 without a dissenting vote, they’re going to have to come up with some really fancy footwork to get around that,” Christie said. “He’s eminently qualified.”

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