Fernandez-Vina Confirmed as N.J. Supreme Court Justice

, New Jersey Law Journal

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Faustino Fernandez-Vina with Gov. Chris Christie
Faustino Fernandez-Vina with Gov. Chris Christie

The New Jersey Senate on Monday unanimously approved the appointment of Faustino Fernandez-Vina to the state Supreme Court.

Fernandez-Vina, 61, a Republican from southern New Jersey, was sworn in on Tuesday and began hearing oral arguments that day.

He filled the seat vacated Oct. 26 by Justice Helen Hoens, also of the GOP, thereby keeping the court’s political balance.

A native of Cuba who immigrated to the U.S. as a child, Fernandez-Vina is the second Hispanic justice to sit on the state’s high court.

He has been a Superior Court judge since 2004, most recently serving as Camden County’s assignment judge for the past year-and-a-half. He was the county’s presiding Civil Part judge from February 2007 until February 2012.

Chief Justice Stuart Rabner announced Tuesday that Lee Solomon, the Camden vicinage’s presiding Criminal Part judge since April, is taking over as assignment judge.

Monday’s 38-0 confirmation vote came after a brief exchange between Sens. Raymond Lesniak and Kevin O’Toole over Fernandez-Vina’s testimony at his Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Oct. 17.

Fernandez-Vina repeatedly refused to comment on court rulings, saying he believed he was governed by Canon 2A of the Code of Judicial Conduct, which says judges must act in a way that promotes public confidence in the judiciary.

Lesniak, D-Union, said Monday that Fernandez-Vina hid behind a judicial ethics rule that doesn’t exist: “that you can’t discuss the jurisprudence of any case that has ever been decided.” Among the cases Fernandez-Vina wouldn’t give his opinion about were Brown v. Board of Education and Griswold v. Connecticut, Lesniak pointed out.

Lesniak said that although Fernandez-Vina appears to be a good trial judge, there is no history of opinions, law review articles or journals from which to ascertain his approach to the law.

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