The Attorney General enforces the law. That’s the main function of the office no matter where you are.
The murder of George Floyd in 2020 prompted all sorts of changes in the way police interact with the public, at least in states like New Jersey that are run by Democrats.
Republicans haven’t been on board with all of the changes, or even the overall philosophy.
So when Matt Platkin, who is destined to be the state’s next Attorney General, appeared Monday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Anthony M. Bucco was ready. The Republican from LD-25 observed:
“We’re losing focus; the office is becoming more of a political policy promotion spot.”
More bluntly, Bucco’s point was that Platkin, who is now acting AG, has been using his office to further left wing goals, some of which have little to do with actual law enforcement.
Platkin replied that his office must always stand up for residents who need that type of advocacy.
Bucco, who didn’t seem all that satisfied, moved the conversation to abortion.
New Jersey already has taken legal steps to protect abortion rights in the wake of the Roe v. Wade ruling. Subsequent to that action, the state also passed a law saying it would not cooperate with other states seeking to prosecute women who come to New Jersey to have an abortion.
The intent here seems clear. If, hypothetically, a state where abortion is illegal seeks to prosecute one of its residents for journeying to the Garden State to get one, don’t expect any help from New Jersey officials. Supporters see this as a way to protect the rights of women no matter where they live.
But Bucco and fellow Republican senator Mike Doherty of Warren County saw something potentially sinister in all this.
Suppose the individual seeking an abortion is not a 22-year-old from, say, Alabama, but a 16-year old kidnapped by human traffickers? If this woman – actually a minor – is brought to New Jersey for an abortion, would law enforcement agencies cooperate with other agencies?
In some ways, it was an off-the-wall question. Clearly, there’s a big distinction between an adult from another state seeking an abortion and a minor doing so under duress.
Platkin has been before a state committee before. Most infamously, a few years ago during an investigation into rape allegations made by Katie Brennan. Both Brennan and the alleged perpetrator were involved with Phil Murphy’s 2017 campaign, so this story was big news in state politics.
The point is that in both his appearances before committees, Platkin tended to reply in “legalize.”
You wished he would have said something today like, “If human trafficking is suspected, we would absolutely cooperate with any relevant agency.”
Instead, he said things like, “There’s nothing to prevent us from combatting sex trafficking.” Another time he said that state law would not hinder the prosecution of sex trafficking.
Doherty, more than Bucco, seemed annoyed. He said Platkin’s answers were too “cute.” Clearly, Doherty would have liked some straight talk.
In the end, both Doherty and Bucco voted “no.”
Interestingly, Jon Bramnick, another committee Republican, voted “yes.”
He offered a statement that was, in effect, pretty statesman-like.
Bramnick said Platkin is qualified for the job and Republicans should not oppose him just because they may at times disagree with him.
That is, of course, how things used to work.