30 Mar State Hires Peter Verniero to Help Defend School-Funding Case (NJ)

March 30, 2011

By: Michael Symons
Source: Asbury Park Press

The Christie administration has retained Peter Verniero, a former state Supreme Court associate justice and state attorney general, to help defend the state in the school-funding case now returning to the high court.

Verniero is not being paid for his time, but the firm at which he’s a partner, Sills Cummis & Gross, may be paid $350 per hour for any time others there spend on the case, said Department of Law and Pub lic Safety spokesman Lee Moore. The matter is on an accelerated schedule, with briefs due April 7th, as the Supreme Court contemplates a ruling that could affect the coming state budget if additional school aid is ordered.

Verniero was attorney general from 1996 to 1999 and argued two Abbott vs. Burke cases before the Supreme Court at that time. He was then on the Supreme Court for five years but resigned with two years left in his initial term after it became apparent that, due to a controversy over his role as A.G. in the State Police’s racial profiling issues, he wouldn’t be renominated by Gov. Jim McGreevey. (As it turns out, McGreevey wasn’t governor by 2006, anyway.)

Verniero heads Gov. Chris Christie’s Judicial Review Panel, which recommends potential Superior Court candidates to the governor. He was chairman of the Christie transition subcommittee that studied the Office of the Governor.

The Education Law Center has sued the state over cuts to state aid to public schools. A special master said in his fact-finding report that the amount of school funding isn’t sufficient to provide the “thorough and efficient system of education” required by the state constitution.

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