Gov. Chris Christie has nominated a Democratic lawyer who has served as both a defense attorney and a prosecutor for a seat on the New Jersey Supreme Court.
Walter Timpone's nomination is part of a deal the Republican governor made with Democrats who control the state Senate to end a stalemate over the court vacancy. Christie appeared with Senate President Steve Sweeney at the statehouse Monday to announce the nomination.
"I've known Walter _ his real name is Wally from my perspective _ for over 15 years as a person of great accomplishment and integrity, and who is well-known and highly respected for his commitment to public service and his knowledge of the law," Christie said.
The governor had announced earlier this year that he would nominate Monmouth County Judge David Bauman to the spot on the top court. But Sweeney had vowed Bauman would not get a vote because it would swing the party makeup of the bench too heavily in Republicans' favor. Christie thanked Bauman for his willingness to serve and called him a man of "great integrity and talent."
Sweeney said Monday that a hearing on Timpone's nomination will soon be held and expects that he will be confirmed. Christie said he picked a Democrat for the post because "I wanted to get something done." He said the nomination came after Sweeney promised him that Christie could get a vote on a nominee if he selected a Democrat. The disagreement over Bauman centered on the court's makeup.
The current makeup of the seven-member court includes two Democrat-nominated justices and four Republican-picked ones. Judge Mary Catherine Cuff has been serving temporarily since 2012. She was appointed to the bench by Gov. Tom Kean, a Republican. Christie had argued that Justice Jaynee LaVecchia, appointed by Gov. Christie Todd Whitman, was an independent, but Democrats count her in the Republican column.
Timpone, 65, said it was a "magical" day for him. Timpone, a criminal defense attorney and a former federal prosecutor, serves on the state's Election Law Enforcement Commission. He's a senior partner at McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney and Carpenter and also serves as a board attorney to a New Jersey laborers' union.