Christie relents, taps Democrat for N.J. high court

Gov. Chris Christie

Gov. Chris Christie

Gov. Chris Christie is nominating a registered Democrat for a seat on New Jersey’s Supreme Court.

Christie said he’s nominating defense attorney Walter Timpone because he’s trustworthy and will satisfy Democratic senators’ concerns that the court have a partisan balance.

“I would have preferred to nominate a Republican, and I did a number of times, but then you’ve got to get down to what’s going to work,” Christie said Monday. “And I’ve decided to work with the Senate president on this and to make this compromise.”

Appearing with the governor and Senate President Steve Sweeney, Timpone said he is humbled and excited by the opportunity.

“This is a magical day for me,” he said. “One that I could have never imagined ever coming.”

Sweeney agreed with Christie’s choice of Timpone to fill a long-vacant seat on the court.

“Mr. Timpone is very well respected, and we will be having a hearing in the very near future,” said Sweeney, D-Gloucester. “I would expect that he will be confirmed.”

That would ensure a full complement of seven Justices and end a stalemate that began in 2010 when Democrats started objecting to the governor’s nominees after Christie refused to renominate Justice John Wallace.

Christie said he is achieving his goal of changing the makeup of the high court.

“I certainly think I’ve changed it from where we were in 2010. No question about that, and I think I’ve changed it in a way that’s been very positive,” he said. “But you never know these things until you have a longer sweep of history because all these folks that I’ve put on the court will outlast me.”

Timpone, a member of the state’s Election Law Enforcement Commission, is a senior partner at McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney and Carpenter. He also serves as a board attorney to a New Jersey laborers’ union.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.