LaVecchia Ends 21-Year Term on NJ Supreme Court
Today is the last day in office for Jaynee LaVecchia, who is retiring as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of New Jersey.
LaVecchia is the dean of the state’s highest court and the last member of a Supreme Court largely reshaped by Governor Christine Todd Whitman to step down from the bench. She is the oldest female judge in the history of the state.
LaVecchia announced on March 8 that she would step down on August 30, but agreed to stay for up to four more months after Gov. Phil Murphy’s candidate to replace her has yet to be confirmed by the Senate. ‘State. His decision was unexpected, as LaVecchia will not reach the mandatory retirement age of 70 until October 2024.
A week later, Murphy announced he would appoint Rachel Wainer Apter, former legal assistant to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, to replace LaVecchia. Without the approval of State Senator Holly Schepisi (R-River Vale) required under the unwritten rule of Senate courtesy, Wainer Apter’s appointment has stalled.
Wainer Apter’s appointment expires at noon on January 11, when the new session of the legislature begins, and Murphy either had to rename her or submit a new name.
Until a replacement for LaVecchia is confirmed, the most senior appeals court judge – Jose L. Fuentes – becomes the seventh judge. But Chief Justice Stuart Rabner has some flexibility to add a temporary judge.
Fuentes was temporarily elevated to the Supreme Court this month and broke a 3-3 tie to overturn the conviction of Michelle Lodzinski, who had already served five years in prison for the 1991 murder of her six-year-old son, Timothy Wiltsey. One of LaVecchia’s last decisions was to support the overturning of Lodzinski’s conviction.
LaVecchia’s public service career began in 1984 when the 29-year-old attorney became deputy state attorney general. She became Deputy Chief Counsel to Governor Thomas Kean in 1986 and later became Deputy Chief Counsel. Kean appointed her Chief Justice of the Office of Administrative Law in 1989, a position she held for five years.
Whitman put LaVecchia in his cabinet as Commissioner of Banking and Insurance in 1998.
On Christmas Eve 1999, Whitman announced the appointment of LaVecchia, then 45, to the Supreme Court. She replaced Marie Garibaldi, the first woman to sit on the state’s Supreme Court.
LaVecchia’s late husband Michael Cole, Kean’s former chief attorney, had also been considered for Garibaldi’s seat, along with appeals court judge Mary Catherine Cuff and two court-assigned judges. Superior, Eugene Serpentelli of Ocean and Anthony Gibson of Atlantic.
The New Jersey State Senate confirmed LaVecchia on January 10, 2000, just seventeen days after her appointment, with a 35-0 vote.
Governor Jon Corzine renamed her for a permanent seat in 2007.
LaVecchia grew up in Wayne, played on two state championship basketball teams for Wayne Valley High School, and worked as a parts washer at the Curtiss-Wright factory in Wood-Ridge, where her father worked, Michael.
LaVecchia’s departure leaves Barry Albin, who was appointed by Governor James E. McGreevey, as Senior Associate Judge. Albin will reach mandatory retirement age in July.