Judge Not: NJ Gov. Christie Ousts Lone Black Justice

By Michelle Chen Jun 03, 2010

New Jersey’s new governor is zealously spreading a conservative agenda across his state, all the way up to the courthouse door. Gov. Chris Christie has sparked outrage in his decision not to reappoint the one Black judge of the state Supreme Court, an unabashedly calculated move in a racially and politically polarized state. Last month, he surprised critics by refusing to reappoint a key Democrat-affiliated justice, John E. Wallace, reportedly to restore partisan balance on the bench. Wallace, 68, was slated for mandatory retirement in 2012, but Christie’s decision not to reappoint him after one seven-year term–the first such move since the enactment of the state constitution in 1947–sends a strong message that the governor is seeking to remake the court in his image. That image so far seems to be a reflection of a white conservative elite that Christie caters to with his attacks on unions and desire to downsize government. Rutgers law professor Frank Askin told the AP, "I think it’s unfortunate that we no longer have an African-American on the court. I think it’s a vast step backward and an insult to African-Americans."