N.J. governor calls for Supreme Court justice’s resignation
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) – The governor called on state Supreme Court Justice Peter G. Verniero to resign, accusing him of misleading senators about racial profiling at his confirmation hearing in 1999.
”I believe the integrity of the process was violated,” acting Gov. Donald T. DiFrancesco said Thursday.
Verniero served as Gov. Christie Whitman’s attorney general before she nominated him to the high court. DiFrancesco became governor earlier this year when President Bush appointed Whitman as director of the Environmental Protection Agency.
DiFrancesco said he has called Verniero and asked for his resignation.
The governor said he is prepared, in his simultaneous role as Senate president, to ask the Senate to pass a resolution of censure if Verniero refuses to resign by May 3.
A resolution for impeachment was being drafted and would be ready Friday, Assemblyman William Payne said.
Verniero refused to resign and said in a statement he misled no one.
”Resignation from my current position is not warranted,” Verniero said. ”I intend to remain focused on my duties as a member of the Supreme Court and shall continue to discharge those duties with diligence, fairness and integrity.”
Whitman was unavailable for comment, her spokeswoman said Thursday.
On Wednesday, Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike said Verniero should step down. They said he misled lawmakers who questioned him during his confirmation hearing.
Evidence presented in six days of Senate hearings on racial profiling over the past two weeks showed Verniero was aware of racial profiling at least three years before he admitted it publicly, legislators charged.
In testimony last week, Verniero denied withholding evidence of racial profiling from federal investigators but said he regrets not questioning state police more thoroughly about allegations they targeted minority drivers.
Verniero first admitted state police were targeting minorities in an April 1999 report issued one year after two white troopers fired on a van stopped for speeding on the New Jersey Turnpike. Three black and Hispanic men were wounded.
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