State Senate Calls on Justice Rivera-Soto to Resign

More than two months after Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto provoked a crisis regarding the temporary appointment of Appellate Division Presiding Judge Edwin Stern to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant when Governor Christie decided not to reappoint Justice John Wallace, the Senate on February 17 adopted Senate Resolution 105. That resolution calls on Justice Rivera-Soto to resign his seat on the Supreme Court if the State Assembly does not impeach him. The Assembly has shown no interest in impeachment.

To recap the sequence of events, Justice Rivera-Soto first announced on December 10, 2010 that he would not vote in any case on which Judge Stern also sat, on the grounds that Chief Justice Rabner’s appointment of Judge Stern was unconstitutional. Thereafter, on January 12, 2011, Justice Rivera-Soto stated that he had considered the matter further, and that he would now vote in all cases except for those in which Judge Stern’s vote was dispositive. Meanwhile, on January 5, 2011, Justice Rivera-Soto notified Governor Christie that he did not wish to be reappointed when Justice Rivera-Soto’s own initial term ends later this year.

SR 105 concludes that Justice Rivera-Soto’s actions are “prejudicial to the administration of justice and constitute a serious violation of the public trust…. [and] may constitute grounds for impeachment for misdemeanor committed during his continuance in office.” It also expresses the sense of the Senate that if the Assembly does not impeach Justice Rivera-Soto, he “must” resign his seat. The resolution passed by a vote of 21-3.