New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy will nominate Douglas R. Fasciale to fill one of three open seats on the state Supreme Court later this month, moving past a political standoff that exacerbated a shortage of judges throughout the state judiciary.
Murphy announced the nomination Wednesday afternoon, joined by state Senate President Nicholas Scutari — signaling an easy confirmation for the nominee, a judge for the last 18 years.
Scutari — like Murphy, a Democrat — had also recommended Fasciale, a Republican, to the governor.
Fasciale had been temporarily assigned to the court since Sept. 1. He would take the associate justice seat vacated by Faustino Fernandez-Vina, who reached the court’s mandatory retirement age of 70 earlier this year.
The governor, in his remarks Wednesday, said Fasciale’s nomination would “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 said that was because “we are seeing, across the nation, too many of our core democratic institutions losing credibility.”
His comments also touched on the dispute over the partisan balance of the court that has created three vacancies among the six associate justices. Fernandez-Vina retired seven months ago, but Murphy also nominated Rachel Wainer Apter, a Democrat, 18 months ago to replace Justice Jaynee LaVecchia.
Murphy agreed to Fasciale’s nomination in early September as part of a deal with Republican state Sen. Holly Schepisi to release her 18-month hold on Wainer Apter, under a tradition known as “senatorial courtesy.” The unwritten rule of the state Senate lets senators block nominations from their own home districts, and has played a role in keeping dozens of lower court positions open. As of earlier this month, there were 64 judicial openings in the state, amounting to about 15% of the judiciary, NJ Biz reported this week.
Schepisi confirmed the outlines of that deal to NJ.com and other publications earlier this month, when she announced she’d no longer hold up Wainer Apter’s nomination.
Murphy alluded to it on Wednesday as well, describing a New Jersey tradition that no more than four of the court’s seven seats be filled with members of any one political party.
“And for the last year-and-a-half, I have heard from Sen. Schepisi how important the tradition is to her, as well, as a senator and as a lawyer and member of the New Jersey Bar,” Murphy said.
Scutari, during Wednesday’s announcement, said he’d known Fasciale for more than two decades. He described Fasciale as an even-handed, fair judge with a reputation for scholarship and a strong work ethic.
“I'm here to praise his nomination, and to tell you that he's got my 100% support moving through this process because of the cooperation that we've had through this process,” Scutari said.
Fasciale said he was aware of the “enormous responsibility” on the court’s shoulders, and that he only wished his parents had been alive to see him become a justice.
“I can only imagine their reaction to the governor's selection of me for the Supreme Court,” he said. “I suspect it would be unimaginable for them.”
Fasciale has been a judge with New Jersey’s Appellate Division since 2010. Prior to that, from And from 2004 through 2010, he was a Union County Superior Court judge in the civil, criminal, and family parts, as well as in drug court.