Christie Picks Openly Gay African-American, Asian-American for Top Court

Governor Chris Christie is nominating an openly gay African-American and an Asian-American law enforcement official to the now all-white New Jersey Supreme Court.

The governor announced the nominations of lawyers Bruce Harris and Phillip Kwon at the Statehouse Monday morning, the day before the legislature takes up gay marriage. Christie said his timing had nothing to do with the pending bill, and urged people not to read too much into it.

“I've been clear on this topic all the way through and I think those of you who have gotten to know me overtime know that I'm not somebody who changes positions with the grace of a ballerina,” Christie said. “So I wouldn't be all a twitter with expectation.

Steven Goldstein, director of Garden State Equality, said he received a call from the governor five minutes before the announcement was made Monday.

“You could have picked me up off the floor, and I told the governor that,” Goldstein said. “It’s a great day. The governor deserves tremendous credit for this appointment. Period.”

Harris is a lawyer with more than 20 years of legal experience, most recently working at the law firm of Greenberg, according to the governor’s office. His work has focused primarily on issues of public finance and commercial lending. He’s the mayor of Chatham and, if confirmed, would be the third African-American and the first openly gay member of the court.

Kwon is a Korean-American is a first assistant attorney general in New Jersey,  lives in Bergen County, and would be the first Asian-American and immigrant on the high court.  He previously worked in the U.S. Prosecutors Office in Newark .

One seat on the court is currently open and one will become vacant on March 1. Christie called on the legislature to hold confirmation hearings so that a vote can be taken by that date.