Norcross, the Courts, and the Governor’s Race

Fulop, left, and Sweeney.

At each level of New Jersey’s ongoing political narrative, from the presidential election, to the US Senate race, to the allegedly crooked backroom deals by an elite powerbroker, it appears that there is one consistently present element: the courts. The judiciary has always played a key role in shaping the political narrative, by enabling or constraining those who would exercise power, but in an era of sound-bite attention spans and a seemingly post-satirical society, the courts play an increasingly frequent and prominent role as the last custodian of objective truth in political discourse for New Jerseyans. This chapter of New Jersey’s political history will be marked by the influence of judges and juries in a way not seen before in living memory.

When Attorney General Matt Platkin announced charges against South Jersey boss George Norcross, he dropped a bombshell on headlines around the state. Accused of racketeering and corruption, the document, some 111 pages long, alleges that Norcross has diverted New Jersey tax-payer-backed development incentives for the Camden waterfront to benefit himself and his partners, threatening those who stood in his way. Further, Norcross is accused of using his power and influence to manipulate legislation to his advantage.

Norcross himself was present for Platkin’s press conference, seated right up front, absorbing the accusations made against him in a peculiar, but clearly calculated power move.

The implications of the Norcross development will have repercussions on the New Jersey gubernatorial race. While it is too early to definitively plot out which way the waves will push the ship of state, it is worth assessing a few notable points.

Candidates should expect their connections with Mr. Norcross to come under additional scrutiny. Those with gubernatorial aspirations in particular will find themselves under the microscope to see what, if any, financial influence Norcross may have had as a donor. While Norcross, like any other American citizen, is entitled to his day in court, with the presumption of innocent-until-proven-guilty, damage to the Norcross brand has been done. If he is acquitted, one can expect Norcross to marshal his not-insignificant resources to put the attorney general in his political crosshairs. If he is found guilty, the shockwaves will be felt farther than just Camden.

Which brings us to Platkin himself. A young man, tenacious, he is also demonstrably independent. No mere extension of Governor Phil Murphy, Platkin shrugged off any perception of sitting on the governor’s knee definitively when he refused to defend “the party line” ballot arrangement, effectively snubbing the First Lady—albeit on constitutional grounds. Mrs. Murphy dropped out of the US Senate race before the Democratic primary, which Rep. Andy Kim secured over Patricia Campos-Medina and Larry Hamm. Kim now faces Curtis Bashaw, the Republican challenger.

With Platkin’s time as AG effectively dwindling, taking the chance on charging Norcross is, to say the least, bold. The stakes are high for Platkin, where a conviction over the south Jersey kingmaker could radically elevate the AG’s prospects for future higher office, or a failure to do so could bring about political repercussions that would effectively end further aspirations in state government for the foreseeable future. Platkin, however, is willing to take the chance. Without an immediate prospect of the governor’s chair, nor a legislative race to which he would naturally fit, one must conclude, however quaintly, that Platkin’s motivations are, in fact, not self-serving, but for the public good. And if Norcross is acquitted, then the process nevertheless delivered.

Ed Durr, who displaced long-time Senate President and Norcross ally Steve Sweeney, is now making a long-shot run for governor. Displaced himself by John Burzichelli, Ed Durr may seek to make political hay by rocking Sweeney-World, although it would be unlikely to expect significant capitalization, given the early timing of the 2025 race. After all, all eyes are on the Biden/Trump race which draws all the oxygen from the room for the time being.

As headlines run with stories of Trump’s legal woes, conspiracies, and court battles, presenting the United States with the novel prospect of having a convicted felon sitting in the White House bent on revenging himself on the bureaucracy of the federal government, New Jersey continues to contend with its own political headache in the form of US Senator Robert Menendez. The Democratic Party, however, to its credit, has attempted to correct for Menendez. Two episodes of federal charges and corruption was too much. Menendez was repudiated by the Democratic Party and now runs for reelection as an independent, fueled entirely on, apparently, blind hubris. Menendez was low hanging fruit, but the Democratic Party has yet to make a strong response regarding George Norcross, who, after all, is not an elected official. A sharp exception to Democratic silence, however, was found in Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill, a key Democratic contender to succeed Governor Phil Murphy, who blasted the south Jersey powerbroker in a statement.

“From Menendez to Alito to Norcross,” she said in a statement, “too many powerful people from New Jersey seem to think that they are above the law and work to enrich themselves at the expense of hard-working Americans. New Jerseyans deserve to know that their tax dollars are being spent wisely, that contracts are being awarded fairly, and that the system isn’t rigged against them. This type of corruption undermines citizens’ faith in government and costs taxpayers money. I’ve served in the Navy, as a federal prosecutor, and now in Congress. I always have and always will put the people I serve and my oath of office above all else.”

Sherrill’s statements echo those of Andy Kim when he announced his bid for US Senate immediately after Menendez landed in hot water again. Indeed, Kim’s announcement was so sudden and abrupt that he failed, intentionally or otherwise, to seek out the support of party chairs first, bypassing the machine and betting on resonating with regular New Jerseyans who have always felt that their interests were secondary to those entrusted to govern on their behalf. For Kim, it paid off, at least for now. Sherrill’s shot at Norcross, before he has even gone to trial, is a signal that she will not be labeled as an affiliate, ally, or agent of the Norcross empire and its blemished name. Sherrill, therefore, is off the Norcross Christmas card list. It remains to be seen whether or not Sherrill will see any benefit from such an early denunciation, or if Democratic lever-pullers are merely shaking their heads, preferring her to focus on matters of policy and gearing up for 2025.

As the dual political whirlpools of 2024 and 2025 gather their angular momentum with each passing day, the courtrooms, whether for the Republican presidential nominee; a politically orphaned, corrupt senator; and a political powerbroker, play an increasingly prominent role in the contests for the political soul of not only the state, but the nation as well.

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5 responses to “Norcross, the Courts, and the Governor’s Race”

  1. Norcross failed Sweeney and allowed Durr to be elected. I believe his usefullness had expired for the party and arrogance led to his downfall. Good riddance.

  2. The Courts in N.J. and Nationally have too much power. It’s time to remove JUDICIAL IMMUNITY once and for all. If the Courts can rule that a President has no or limited immunity, basically neutering the President in enacting wars, protecting our country, and making executive decisions, then all branches of government must NO LONGER be allowed to entertain any immunity whatsoever. That includes the courts/judges.

    Judicial immunity is a 500 year-old doctrine from the Old English Star Chambers that were used to go after those that were politically unfavorable to The Crown.

    The Star-Chambers were used to destroy a person’s life, take all of their assets and properties, and even take their wives if they were good looking. All because the person spoke out about the government or politicians. Judicial immunity was granted to judges then and was brought over from England to the U.S.

    Judicial immunity ISN’T EVEN AMERICAN LAW!!!!!!! It’s an evil mutation of due process. It’s time, once and for all, to eliminate Judicial Immunity. The appellate divisions were set up to correct errors of law, but have turned into nothing more than rubber stamps, causing many unsuspecting litigants to waste thousands of dollars in what is nothing more than an exercise in mental masturbation by using technical points, in a labyrinthine system, that only turns over 20 %, or less, of bad cases. Most people cannot afford to appeal, and wind up having to do it themselves to get due process or even fairness. You can guess what the results of that method are by the judiciary. Time to allow litigants, whether represented, or pro se, to sue judges for money damages, for making errors of law that affects their liberties, properties, and rights in general.

    The lawyers and bar associations gaslight the public by telling everyone that judges need to have unbridled independence to make decisions. This is utter nonsense, especially when you have liberal-Marxist judges making laws from the bench, when their job is to uphold stare decisis and not be allowed to make up laws. Judicial independence means corruption and tyranny! Removing judicial immunity is liberty for the people.

  3. If Sherril runs for Gov, NJ 11 will be open. Platkin grew up in the district and his politics align in what should be a D seat.

  4. Judge simandle was corrupt to the core. The story about how he consistently helped norcross by tossing creditable cases and deeming them frivolous will show the grand jury a pattern of how he got away with various criminal activities and violated civil right. His regime are going down big time

    The evidence and those murders are overwhelming. He has no idea what’s ahead for him. His arrogance will diminish and he will be bought to his knees

  5. “Further, Norcross is accused of using his power and influence to manipulate legislation to his advantage.”

    Why does every news outlet fail to mention who “led the charge” (his own words) on the bill that allowed these incentives? Donald Norcross needs to be called out too, but the biased “journalists” will not dare to endanger a Democrat house seat. Pathetic.

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