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Making the case for their client in front of Assignment Judge Mary Jacobson this afternoon, George Norcross’ attorneys challenged Governor Phil Murphy’s authority to create the task force that made the infamous criminal referral to the state attorney general’s office after investigating tax incentive programs administered by the NJEDA.
Michael Critchley took the judge on a tour of the very concept of gubernatorial power in New Jersey.
In 1776, the constitution limited gubernatorial power in a way that prevented him from being a king;
in 1844, the state affirmed that the governor be elected by the people;
and in 1944-47, New Jersey leaders streamlined government at a constitutional draft convention.
“One of the chief drafters was [Chief Justice] Arthur Vanderbilt,” said Critchley.
The constitution manifestly intended to separate the power of governor from state agencies like the turnpike authority, Critchley argued.
“We want to have a strong executive,” said the attorney.
But from what authority springs this ability for the governor to engage in this activity? he demanded.
His legal allies backed him up on the point.
“The task force has gone off without legislative authority,” said Kevin Marino. “This is a grand jury proceeding in the public square. …The governor doesn’t have aggregate powers.”