Republican Gov. Chris Christie's nominee for the New Jersey Supreme Court sailed through to final approval on Monday, part of a deal Christie made with the Democratic leader of the state Senate.
Walter Timpone, a criminal defense attorney and former federal prosecutor, was approved Monday in the Democrat-led Senate by a vote of 32-1. Democratic Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg was the lone no vote. Timpone's nomination was approved on the floor without any debate or discussion.
His nomination was part of a deal between Christie and Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney, in which Sweeney agreed to advance Christie's nominee in exchange for picking a Democrat. The makeup of the seven-member court before Timpone's approval includes two Democrat-nominated justices and four Republican-picked ones.
Timpone faced questioning last week during a Senate judiciary committee hearing about his decision to recuse himself from a campaign finance case in front of the election board against Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, a Christie ally. Timpone said he excused himself because he had previously asked DiVincenzo to give his nephew a job. His nephew later had a falling out with DiVincenzo and resigned.
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"You're kind of darned if you do and darned if you don't," Timpone said. "If I voted for the complaint, I was doing it out of malice because of my nephew's resignation. And if I voted against it, I was doing it because I owed him a favor.'' The recusal left the board without a Democrat and the case being dropped.
Weinberg said she voted against the nomination because questions she sent to Christie's office about the recusal went unanswered by Monday's vote. She says Timpone is going onto the court "under a dark cloud." Christie's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Christie nominated Timpone after earlier picking Republican Judge David Bauman, whom Sweeney vowed to oppose. Christie said he changed his mind after Sweeney told him he could get a vote if he nominated a Democrat. Timpone is a Democrat who has served on the state's Election Law Enforcement Commission and as counsel to a laborers' union. Timpone replaces Judge Mary Catherine Cuff, who has been serving temporarily since 2012.