A political tug-of-war is roiling the New Jersey Supreme Court, where a justice stunned observers by refusing to vote on cases, reports the Wall Street Journal. Associate Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto, the abstaining judge, announced Wednesday that he will once again vote and write opinions in cases before the state's top court. But he also left open the option to continue abstaining based on his original protest of a temporary judge assigned to the court. “I shall defer a decision on casting a vote and reserve the right to abstain,” he wrote in an opinion, crediting his new stance on an unnamed voice of “particularly sober, thoughtful, measured and ultimately persuasive analysis.”
Rivera-Soto injected himself last month into a fight over the makeup of the court by abstaining from all cases in protest of the appointment of a temporary judge by the chief justice to fill a vacant spot. It all began in May, when Gov. Chris Christie kicked a sitting justice off the bench. By tradition, governors in the past typically re-appointed sitting Supreme Court justices for tenure. Democratic lawmakers have since refused to hold hearings on Christie's nominee. The court's chief justice called up an appellate judge to fill the seventh seat, as often happens when Supreme Court justices are unable to participate in cases.