of Acting Governor Donald T. DiFrancesco
Concerning Supreme Court Justice Peter Verniero
April 5, 2001
foundation of our democracy is respect for the law and there is no
higher law of this land than our Constitution. Our Constitution very
clearly prescribes that the Senate shall have the right to exercise
advice and consent concerning appointees to various state positions
including nominees to the State Supreme Court.
of us who have been honored to serve in the State Senate, we believe
that it is not just our right, but our responsibility to review
thoroughly the nominations submitted for our consideration. As Senators,
we have the responsibility to determine if a nominee is not only
qualified, but has conducted him or herself in a manner reflective of
the high office to which they have been nominated.
months ago, I directed the Senate Judiciary Committee to initiate a
review of the circumstances and documents available concerning racial
profiling. As part of that review they requested and with my consent
retained Michael Chertoff as a special counsel for the committee. Mr.
Chertoff's credentials are well known and his record speaks for itself.
The committee examined 100,000 pages of documents, interviewed dozens of
people, and conducted lengthy public hearings. By almost any measure,
they have been very thorough. I want to thank the members of the
committee for their hard work.
the members of that committee, based on the findings of their review,
called for the resignation of Supreme Court Justice Peter Verniero. I
know that they did not come to this conclusion lightly. This is a very
serious matter and one that deserves and requires very serious and
many, I have followed this process through press accounts and news
stories. But, I've also had the benefit of discussing the issue directly
with the committee members and have spent the past few days reviewing
done so, I come to the conclusion that even if we give Justice Verniero
every benefit of doubt, it is still clear that his original testimony
withheld or misrepresented important information thereby misleading
members of the State Senate.
nominee presented to the State Senate has an obligation to be completely
forthright and open. Preserving the integrity of the process demands
strict adherence to this. When a nominee fails to do so, he not only
demeans himself, but the process, its integrity and, perhaps most
importantly, public confidence in the institutions of our government. We
cannot allow that to happen.
Verniero has a long history in state government. He was a Chief Counsel,
a Chief of Staff, and an Attorney General. These positions gave him
broad experience with the confirmation process and the requirement that
nominees be forthright, credible, and sincere. These positions gave him
a deep understanding of the need to honor and protect the integrity of
case I believe that the integrity of the process was violated and that
Senators acted on the nomination without certain facts and information
material to their deliberations. Accordingly, I have called Justice
Verniero and asked for his resignation.
if the information known now about the status of the inquiry into racial
profiling from 1994 to 1999 were known then, many Senators, including
me, would not have supported the Verniero nomination.
record indicates that Justice Verniero knew, or at least should have
known, that racial profiling was real, not imagined, long before he
acknowledged it. He was privy to statistical data dating back as early
indicates that he withheld information relevant to profiling from the
Justice Department. And it clearly demonstrates that he was less than
forthright and open with the Judiciary Committee during his confirmation
example, when asked during his confirmation by Senator Zane about the
Justice Department's investigation, Justice Verniero did not disclose
that he had already received a letter from them indicating that they had
concluded their review and planned to file a civil rights suit. Instead,
he characterized their actions as only a procedural step.
Justice Verniero does not resign, I will ask my colleagues in the Senate
to consider a resolution of censure. As the Senate President, I have an
obligation to protect the institution and our role in the nominating
process. It is absolutely appropriate for the Senate to condemn a
nominee who violates our trust by providing anything less that full and
complete testimony. This action is intended to send a message to Justice
Verniero and to any future nominee who would consider anything less than
action does not interfere with, preclude or rule out any additional
actions such as impeachment. A resolution of censure is meant only to
protect the institutional integrity of the Senate as it relates to our
role in the appointments process.
Let me go
still further by saying that if I am Governor and Justice Verniero
becomes eligible for lifetime tenure, I will not reappoint Justice
Verniero to the Supreme Court.
called from Justice Verniero's impeachment. Again, we must turn to our
constitution and recognize that impeachment is a question for the
General Assembly. Only the Assembly is vested with the constitutional
authority to determine if Justice Verniero's conduct meets the legal
standards required in order to pass articles of impeachment. If they
decide that it does, I may be called upon to preside over a trial in the
Senate, serve as a trier of fact, and render judgment on the specific
charges. This process is set up to ensure fairness and prevent any one
body from serving as both judge and jury. Accordingly, to preserve the
integrity of that process, I will refrain from any additional comment on
impeachment until the Assembly takes whatever action they deem
we discuss a member of the judiciary, and particularly a member of the
Supreme Court, we should expect not just compliance with the letter of
the law, but the spirit of the law, the spirit of the institutions and
the intent of our constitution.
This is a
very sad and unfortunate day for New Jersey. I take no pleasure in
seeking Justice Verniero's resignation. However, we have at stake the
integrity of our government and the confidence of our citizens. Our
Supreme Court has a well-deserved reputation for excellence. As long as
Justice Verniero sits on that court, it will enjoy a reputation less
than it is worthy of.
look to our courts as the final arbiter of fact and fairness. When a
nominee fails to be completely forthright and open with the Senate, that
undermines confidence in the process. When a member of the Supreme Court
is viewed as having exercised his authority as Attorney General in a way
that ignored or concealed certain facts, that undermines confidence in
him. When those facts demonstrate that our citizens are not receiving
equal treatment under the law that undermines confidence in our system.
profiling is a blight on this state and on the honest, hard working men
and women of law enforcement who have dedicated their lives to
protecting us. When I authorized this review by the Senate Judiciary
Committee, my hope was that the process would lead us toward steps to
eradicate the evils of racial profiling and heal the wounds that it has
created. I still hope that.
taken a number of steps in that direction already - video camera's in
cars, enhanced Trooper training and better data collection - and I want
to commend the State Troopers and their leaders for the good work that
they've done. But all of us know that more should and must be done. We
should not rest until we are certain that racial profiling has been
forward to receiving what I consider to be the most important aspect of
the Judiciary Committee's work - their recommendations on additional
steps to end racial profiling.
that the Legislature's Black and Latino Caucus has proposed legislation
to right his wrong and I will consider those recommendations as well. We
must all work together to cure this ill. Profiling may be directed at
only a few groups, but it affects every one of us. None of us should
rest until it has been stopped once and for all.
TRENTON, NJ 08625
CONTACT: Tom Wilson/Jayne O'Connor
RELEASE: April 5, 2001