In an effort to diversify his state’s Supreme Court roster, controversial and outspoken New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (pictured left) has nominated an openly gay black man, Bruce A. Harris (pictured right), and an Asian man, Phillip H. Kwon, for the top court posts, according to the New York Times.
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Harris, currently the Republican mayor of Chatham Borough in Morris County, would become the state’s first openly gay justice and its third African American seated if confirmed.
Korean-born Kwon, who works in the attorney general’s office as first assistant attorney general, would be the first justice appointed to be born outside the United States and also its first Asian representative if approved. Governor Christie stands behind his nominees and feels confident they will serve the high court well although neither man has served as judges previously:
I felt strongly about making sure the court have diversity but first and foremost that the court have quality justices who make sure they take the court in a direction that is a responsible one for the future of our state and its people, said Christie at a press conference announcing the nominees.
New Jersey’s Supreme Court currently consists of five women and two men. They are all White. Nationwide, six openly gay justices are seated in the Supreme Court.
Harris’ nomination comes after Governor Christie faced harsh criticism for declining to nominate African-American former justice John Wallace again in 2010. Harris’ and Kwon’s nominations are subject to New Jersey Senate confirmation and Governor Christie has said his court nominees will remain publicly silent ahead of their Senate Judiciary panel hearings.