Acting Morris County Prosecutor Fredric Knapp got a thumbs down vote in the New Jersey Senate on Thursday, but the governor's office said the vote was "partisan theater" and Knapp will remain in place as Morris County's acting prosecutor and will be renominated by Gov. Chris Christie next year.
Knapp was nominated by Christie in June to be the next Morris County prosecutor, but he never was considered by the Democratic-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee.
That led Christie to order what Democrats said was a shocking Attorney General's Office takeover of the Morris County Prosecutor's Office last week, removing former Prosecutor Robert Bianchi, whose term technically ended on June 22, and having Knapp sworn in as the acting prosecutor in the meantime.
On Thursday, New Jersey Senate Democrats voted down the nomination, even though it had not been considered by the Judiciary Committee.
“You just saw a very loud statement in the Senate today, with all 24 members basically sending a message back that we are going to respect the separate branches of government, that the governor is not king and he doesn’t get to just anoint and do whatever he wants to do,” said Senate President Stephen Sweeney, according to the Capitol Quickies blog.
Michael Drewniak, Christie's press secretary, said the vote confirms Senate Democrats "have made the confirmation process a mockery."
"The Senate majority has now confirmed what we already knew—that they have made the confirmation process a mockery," he said in a statement. "Their action today is of no practical consequence. Mr. Knapp will be renominated by the Governor, and he will stay in place at the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office. Today was just another example of partisan theater, courtesy of the Senate Democrats."
Morris County Republican Senators Tony Bucco and Joe Pennacchio released a statement decrying "Senate Democrats unprecedented political attempt today to avoid the democratic process and try to unseat Acting Morris County Prosecutor Fredric Knapp."
“Once again, the majority party is trying to deny a qualified nominee from serving the people as a prosecutor or judge strictly for political reasons,” Bucco said. “They are in denial that Chris Christie has been elected New Jersey’s governor and are attempting everything they can to prevent Gov. Christie and this Senate from exercising our constitutional duties for New Jersey residents.”
“Senate Democrats have once again proved they could care less about the democratic process and the New Jersey Constitution,” Pennacchio said. “They have lost any credibility to even mention constitutionality, as they ignore an obligation to confirm a full state Supreme Court and baselessly ignore the massive backlog of judges, prosecutors and other gubernatorial appointments.”
“No other Governor in modern state history has been treated this way with regard to nominees,” Bucco said. “This isn’t about Frederic Knapp and his unassailable qualifications to be Morris County Prosecutor. This is about a party disgracing the New Jersey Senate because they lack total control.”
Bianchi has filed a lawsuit to be reinstated as county prosecutor until his successor is confirmed.