Gov. Murphy reveals his newest choice for the N.J. Supreme Court

Published: Sep. 14, 2022

Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday announced the nomination of Douglas Fasciale to the New Jersey Supreme Court to serve as the state’s 42nd Justice.

If confirmed by the state Senate, Fasciale would replace Justice Faustino Fernandez-Vina, a fellow Republican who retired in February.

Fasciale, 61, of Westfield, has been a state Superior Court judge in Union County for nearly 18 years. He has actually been serving on the Supreme Court since Sept. 1 as one of three senior appellate division jurists named as temporary replacements to fill an unprecedented number of vacancies on the seven-member court.

In selecting Fasciale, Murphy, a Democrat, stressed that it “will send a strong message to all New Jerseyans — and I hope to leaders throughout our nation — of the importance of judicial independence and impartiality, and of the critical need for restoring balance over partisanship in our courts.”

Murphy took aim at what he called “an unprecedented politicization of the (United States) Supreme Court in recent years. The confirmation process has become a spectacle, serving as a forum for ugly partisanship instead of reasoned debate.”

“Judge Fasciale may be a registered Republican, but he commands universal respect across the legal community,” Murphy said while announcing the nomination during a news conference at the Trenton War Memorial. “He also has my tremendous respect.”

New Jersey politics, however, has prevented the state’s highest court from having a full slate of justices for more than a year.

The nomination of Fasciale had been whispered in Trenton for the last couple months while Murphy’s other high court nominee, Rachel Wainer Apter, stalled for nearly a year and a half.

The political logjam on Wainer Apter’s nomination thawed earlier this month when the Republican lawmaker blocking the nomination, state Sen. Holly Schepisi, R-Bergen, said she was changing course and now supporting Wainer Apter, a Democrat, to move forward.

Wainer Apter would replace former Justice Jaynee LaVecchia, who retired on Dec. 31. LaVecchia identified as an independent on the court.

Fasciale, the son of Italian immigrants, said he was humbled by the governor’s nomination and wished his parents were still alive to witness Wednesday’s announcement.

“I am their legacy,” said Fasciale, with wife Teresa, an attorney at Riker Danzig Scherer Hyland & Perretti, and two aspiring lawyer sons, Steven, 23, and Michael, 26, joining him.

“Thank you for the extraordinary honor of nominating me to be an Associate Justice for the New Jersey Supreme Court,” Fasciale said looking at Murphy. “I’m grateful for the confidence that you’ve shown me.

“As a sitting judge for 18 years, I am fully aware of the enormous responsibility on the shoulders of the Chief Justice and Associate Justices of our Supreme Court - a court which has a national reputation for outstanding judicial distinction. Your trust inspires me to be the very best that I can possibly be.”

State Senate President Nicholas Scutari, D-Union, said he expected Fasciale’s nomination to move “smoothly and quickly” through his chamber. Scutari said he was the one to recommend Fasciale, who hails from his home county, to Murphy.

“How do you think he got the nomination?” Scutari said in a phone call to NJ Advance Media three hours before Murphy’s announcement at the Trenton War Memorial. “I see this will go smoothly and quickly since we’ve worked with the Governor’s Office from the ground up on this and I am the one who recommended him to the Governor’s Office a while ago.”

With Schepisi now no longer blocking Wainer Apter, Scutari said he expected a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing for her after the Legislature reconvenes for its fall business.

If confirmed, Fasciale will join the 75-year old New Jersey Supreme Court, formed after the state Constitution was rewritten in 1947.

The normally seven-body state Supreme Court was down by as many three Justices after former Justice Barry Albin retired on July 6. Chief Justice Stuart Rabner announced on Aug. 16 that he had called up Fasciale and two other Appellate Division judges to temporarily fill in at the beginning of the new court session that began Sept. 1.

The president of the New Jersey Bar Association, Jeralyn Lawrence, praised Fasciale’s nomination but also urged lawmakers and Murphy to move quicker on nominations and confirmations of much needed judges. The Judiciary is facing an unprecedented number of judicial vacancies — currently 64 in Superior Court with nine more anticipated by the end of this year — due mostly to retirements.

“Today’s nomination of Judge Fasciale, along with the pending nomination of Rachel Wainer Apter, mean a promise of relief in the historic vacancies that have beset our state’s highest court is now a realistic hope,” Lawrence said in a statement. “Today’s news takes important steps in upholding the independence and integrity of our Judiciary.

“We urge the Senate to provide an expeditious hearing for both of these nominees, and we hope that efforts will remain focused on addressing the remaining Supreme Court vacancy and the over 60 vacancies facing the Superior Court, which have had catastrophic effects on the people and businesses of our state,” said Lawrence.

Fasciale is “an excellent nominee evidenced by his many years not just as a sitting judge but also a practicing attorney,” said Scutari, who also appeared at the War Memorial. Scutari said he has known the nominee for two decades and watched his career blossom as he went from division to division in the Judiciary.

“He is from Union County, is a certified trial attorney with a wealth of experience that can balance the court. I have had the pleasure of appearing before him as an attorney,” said Scutari earlier. “He’s perfectly suited for the position of state Supreme Court Justice with his thoughtfulness, scholarship and even temper. You couldn’t ask for a better nominee. He is extremely qualified and he will balance the court (politically).”

Fasciale’s appointment will now be sent to the New Jersey State Bar Association’s Judicial and Prosecutorial Appointments Committee, and then a formal nomination will be sent to the Senate.

Murphy has not yet revealed his choice for Albin’s replacement.

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published this page in News and Politics 2022-09-15 03:34:39 -0700