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Stuart Rabner

Stuart Jeff Rabner
Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court
Assumed office
June 29, 2007
Preceded by James R. Zazzali
56th New Jersey Attorney General
In office
September 26, 2006 – June 29, 2007
Preceded by Zulima Farber
Succeeded by Anne Milgram
Personal details
Born (1960-06-30) June 30, 1960
Spouse(s) Deborah Wiener
Alma mater Princeton University
Harvard Law School
Religion Jewish[1]

Stuart Jeff Rabner (born June 30, 1960) is the Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court. He has previously served as New Jersey Attorney General, Chief Counsel to Governor Jon Corzine, and as a federal prosecutor at the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of New Jersey.


  • Biography 1
  • Appointment as Chief Justice 2
  • Attorney general 3
  • Other positions 4
  • Decisions 5
    • 2013–14 Term 5.1
    • 2012–13 Term 5.2
    • 2011–12 Term 5.3
    • 2010–11 Term 5.4
    • 2009–10 Term 5.5
    • 2008–09 Term 5.6
    • 2007–08 Term 5.7
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


Rabner grew up in Passaic, New Jersey. He graduated summa cum laude from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University in 1982 and cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1985.[2] He is a resident of Caldwell.[3][4] He was married in 1989 to Dr. Deborah Ann Wiener,[5] and has three children: Erica, Carly, & Jack.[6] In June 2007, he was named the No. 1 most influential political personality in the state of New Jersey.[7] In 2010, his name was proposed as a nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court to replace Associate Justice John Paul Stevens.[8]

Appointment as Chief Justice

On June 4, 2007, Governor Corzine nominated Rabner to be the next Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court, replacing James R. Zazzali, who was nearing the mandatory retirement age.[9]

Shortly after the nomination, two members of the New Jersey Senate from Essex County, where Rabner resides, blocked consideration of his confirmation by invoking "senatorial courtesy", a Senate tradition that allows home county legislators to intercede to prevent consideration of a nominee from the counties they represent. State Senator Ronald Rice had initially blocked the nomination, but relented on June 15, 2007, after a meeting with the governor.[10] Senator Nia Gill dropped her block on June 19, 2007, but did not initially explain the nature of concerns. (Anonymous lawmakers cited in The New York Times indicated that the objection was due to Rabner's race and Governor Jon Corzine's failure to consider a minority candidate for the post.)[11]

With the Senators permitting consideration of his nomination, Rabner was quickly approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, with Gill casting the only negative vote. On June 21, 2007, the New Jersey Senate confirmed Rabner as Chief Justice by a vote of 36–1, with Gill again casting the lone dissenting vote.[12]

Rabner was sworn in as Chief Justice on June 29, 2007, with Acting Chief Justice Virginia Long administering the oath of office.[13] On May 21, 2014, Governor Chris Christie renominated Rabner as Chief Justice despite their political differences, after a compromise was reached with State Senate Democrats, breaking a longstanding impasse over Supreme Court appointments.[14] The Senate Judicciary Committee confined the nomination on June 14, 2014.[15]

Attorney general

Rabner served as Attorney General of New Jersey in the cabinet of New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine. He took office as attorney general on September 26, 2006.[16] Rabner was nominated by Governor Corzine on August 24, 2006, to replace former Attorney General Zulima Farber who resigned and left office on August 31, 2006.[17] On September 25, 2006, Rabner was confirmed by a 35–0 margin by the New Jersey Senate.[18]

Other positions

After beginning his career as an assistant U.S. attorney, Chief Justice Rabner worked in a number of positions including first assistant U.S. attorney and chief of the terrorism unit in the office of the United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey. He was chief of the office's criminal division, focusing on public corruption issues, and supervising 100 attorneys and staff, when he was named chief counsel to Governor Corzine in January 2006.[6] He was viewed as a surprise choice for the chief counsel position, as it traditionally goes to individuals with strong political connections and not to career prosecutors.[19] Rabner began his legal career as a judicial law clerk to the Honorable Dickinson Richards Debevoise of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey before joining the office of the United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey in Newark in 1986.


In 2011, Chief Justice Rabner authored a landmark decision on eyewitness identification evidence in State v. Henderson.[20][21] The ruling questioned the longstanding test for admitting eyewitness identifications at trial. Henderson outlined a new standard under the New Jersey Constitution in light of more recent, accepted social science evidence on the risks of misidentification. The following year, the NJ Supreme Court released expanded model jury instructions on eyewitness identifications for use in criminal cases, [22] [23] consistent with the Henderson decision.[24][25]

In 2013, Chief Justice Rabner broke new legal ground in a decision about the right to privacy in the location of one’s cell phone.[26][27] [28] The opinion in State v. Earls marked the first time a state Supreme Court found a right of privacy in cell-phone location information. In light of recent advances in technology, the Earls decision noted that cell-phone providers in 2013 can pinpoint the location of a person’s cell phone with increasing accuracy. That information can provide an intimate picture of one’s daily life and reveal not only where people go – which doctors, religious services, and stores they visit – but also the people and groups they choose to affiliate with. The opinion held that, under the State Constitution, cell-phone users are reasonably entitled to expect confidentiality in the location of their cell phones. As a result, to obtain cell-phone location information, police must obtain a search warrant based on a showing of probable cause or qualify for an exception to the warrant requirement, such as exigent circumstances.

Also in 2013, Chief Justice Rabner authored a unanimous decision denying the State’s application for a stay of a trial court order permitting same-sex couples to marry. Garden State Equality v. Dow [29] The ruling was the first by a State Supreme Court in the wake of the United States Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor. Windsor struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and held that DOMA violated the federal constitution by denying lawfully married same-sex couples the benefits given to married couples of the opposite sex. In the wake of that decision, a number of federal agencies extended federal benefits to married same-sex couples but not to partners in civil unions. [30] Under New Jersey state law, same-sex couples could enter into civil unions but could not marry. As a result, the New Jersey Supreme Court concluded that the State Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection for same-sex couples was not being met; that the harm to same-sex couples was real, not speculative; and that the public interest did not favor a stay. [31] [32] Three days after the ruling, same-sex couples began to marry, and the State withdrew its appeal of the trial court order, effectively ending the litigation.[33]

2013–14 Term

  • Garden State Equality v. Dow The State’s application for a stay of a trial court order permitting same-sex couples to marry is denied based on the New Jersey State Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection for same-sex couples, the real harm to same-sex couples, and a determination that the public interest does not favor a stay.

2012–13 Term

  • State v. Earls - The New Jersey Constitution protects an individual’s right of privacy in cell-phone location information.
  • In re Plan for the Abolition of the Council on Affordable Housing - The Executive Reorganization Act does not authorize the Governor to abolish independent state agencies. To abolish the Council on Affordable Housing, the legislative and executive branches must enact new laws passed by the Senate and Assembly and signed by the Governor.
  • State v. Tedesco - A criminal defendant does not have an absolute right to be absent from his sentencing hearing; trial judges have discretion to decide whether to accept a defendant's waiver of the right to be present.
  • N.J. Div. of Youth & Family Servs. v. A.L. - The mere fact that an expectant mother used drugs during pregnancy is insufficient to demonstrate "abuse" or "neglect" of a child under New Jersey's child protection statutes.
  • State v. Sowell - Expert witness's testimony that "an exchange of narcotics took place" was improper because it related to a straightforward factual allegation that was not beyond the understanding of an average juror.

2011–12 Term

  • State v. Lazo - Improper for a police officer to testify at trial about how and why he assembled a photo array.
  • N.J. Ass'n of School Administrators v. Schundler - School reforms enacted in 2007-08 that limit certain benefits for certain school administrators did not violate either the state constitution or pre-existing tenure statutes.
  • Mazdabrook Commons Homeowners' Ass'n v. Khan - Homeowner's association cannot prohibit residents from posting political signs in the windows of their own homes.
  • In re Kollman - Trial court erred in denying petitioner's expungement application
  • Sussex Commons Assocs., LLC v. Rutgers - Records related to cases at a public law school clinic are not subject to the Open Public Records Act (OPRA).
  • State v. Herrerra - Where a defendant is subject to an unlawful traffic stop and then commits an additional crime (i.e., attempts to murder the police officer who pulled him over), the illegality of the traffic stop does not provide a basis for suppressing evidence of the subsequent crime.

2010–11 Term

  • State v. Henderson and State v. Chen (companion cases) – Revised legal standard for assessing eyewitness identification by (1) allowing defendants who demonstrate suggestiveness to present all relevant evidence on identification and (2) requiring more detailed jury charges regarding identification.
  • Too Much Media, LLC v. Hale – The "newsperson's privilege" does not extend to a self-described journalist who posted comments on an Internet message board.
  • Henry v. Department of Human Services (concurring) – The majority opinion authored by Judge Edwin Stern, serving by temporary assignment to the Supreme Court, is valid law, and Judge Stern's temporary assignment does not violate the state constitution.
  • Johnson v. Johnson (concurring) – Disagreement over Judge Stern's temporary assignment to the Supreme Court is not a valid basis for an Associate Justice's decision to abstain from pending cases.
  • The Committee to Recall Robert Menendez v. Wells – The federal constitution does not give states the power to recall United States senators, and the portion of the state constitution authorizing such recalls is unconstitutional.

2009–10 Term

  • State v. McCabe – Part-time municipal court judges must recuse themselves whenever the judge and a lawyer for a party are adversaries in some other open, unresolved matter.
  • Stengart v. Loving Care Agency, Inc. – Attorney-client privilege protects employee's communications with her lawyer even when the statements are made through personal, web-based e-mail on employer-provided laptop.
  • State v. J.G. – The cleric-penitent privilege applies when, under the totality of the circumstances, an objectively reasonable penitent would believe that a communication was secret, that is, made in confidence to a cleric in the cleric's professional character or role as a spiritual advisor.
  • State v. Marquez – When informing a motorist of the consequences of refusing to submit to a Breathalyzer test, a police officer must provide the statement in a language the person speaks or understands.

2008–09 Term

  • State v. Fajardo-Santos – Trial judge may increase bail for undocumented immigrant in criminal case after U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) begins removal proceedings against defendant.
  • Mt. Holly Board of Education v. Mt. Holly Education Ass'n –
  • Burnett v. Bergen County – Established seven-factor test for determining whether individual requesting documents under OPRA must pay cost of redacting Social Security numbers from those documents before release.
  • State v. A.O. – Forbid uncounseled stipulations admitting defendant's polygraph results; recognized that witness's false criminal accusations may be relevant to witness's credibility regardless of whether made before or after underlying accusation.
  • State v. Slater – Established four-factor test for plea withdrawals.

2007–08 Term

  • DeNike v. Cupo – Ordered re-trial in case where plaintiff's counsel offered legal job to trial judge while instant case was pending.
  • Mason v. Hoboken – Under NJ's Open Public Records Act (OPRA), requestor of government documents entitled to attorney's fees when they demonstrate (1) a nexus between their litigation and the relief achieved and (2) that the relief had a basis in law.
  • Shotmeyer v. N.J. Realty Title Ins. Co. – Insurance policy obtained by general partnership when it purchased the property lapsed when the property was voluntarily conveyed to a separate and distinct partnership formed by the same individuals.
  • State v. Luna – Reversed conviction when lack of proof that defendant knowingly waived his right to be present at trial.
  • State v. Reid – Citizens have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the subscriber information they provide to Internet service providers.
  • State v. Sloane – During a motor vehicle stop, the passenger, like the driver, is seized under the federal and state constitutions.
  • State v. Taffaro – Reversed conviction when trial judge's questioning of defendant suggested disbelief of his testimony.

See also


  1. ^ Jones, Richard G. "Rivalries Hobble Resolution of New Jersey Budget Standoff", The New York Times, July 1, 2006. Accessed December 17, 2007. "Little progress is expected Saturday because three principal players in the negotiations – the state treasurer, Brad Abelow; the governor's chief counsel, Stuart Rabner; and Assemblyman Gary S. Schaer, a member of the budget committee – observe the Jewish Sabbath and will not resume taking part in talks until Saturday night."
  2. ^ Stuart Rabner: State Attorney General, State of New Jersey. Accessed September 20, 2007. "Rabner grew up in Passaic and was graduated summa cum laude in 1982 from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University."
  3. ^ Corzine Nominates Stuart Rabner to Serve as Attorney General, press release dated August 24, 2006.
  4. ^ Governor Chris Christie Files Nominations-Press Releases-Office of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie(June 3, 2014)
  5. ^ Dr. Wiener Wed To Stuart Rabner, The New York Times, July 3, 1989.
  6. ^ a b CORZINE NAMES RABNER CHIEF COUNSEL, press release dated December 14, 2005.
  7. ^ Power List 2007, dated June 20, 2007.
  8. ^ Emily Bazelon & Dahlia Lithwick, Who Should Replace Justice Stevens?, "Slate," (April 10, 2010).
  9. ^ "Source: Corzine picks Rabner as chief justice, Milgram as AG", Courier News, May 31, 2007. Accessed May 31, 2007.
  10. ^ Associated Press. "Opposition Ebbs on Corzine Judge", The New York Times, June 15, 2007. Accessed June 20, 2007. "Ronald L. Rice, an Essex County Democrat and state senator, said yesterday that he would no longer block Gov. Jon S. Corzine’s nomination for chief justice of the State Supreme Court."
  11. ^ Jones, Richard G. "Senator Drops Objections to Corzine Court Nominee", The New York Times, June 20, 2007. Accessed June 20, 2007. "Senator Gill had delayed Mr. Rabner’s confirmation hearing by using “senatorial courtesy” – an obscure practice through which senators who represent the home county of nominees may block consideration of their confirmations."
  12. ^ Jones, Richard G. "After One Objection, Senate Confirms Corzine’s Choice for Chief Justice", The New York Times, June 22, 2007. Accessed June 22, 2007. "The Senate voted 36 to 1 to confirm Stuart Rabner, who has been attorney general since September 2006 and was Mr. Corzine’s chief counsel before that. It also confirmed Anne Milgram, Mr. Rabner’s first assistant, to succeed Mr. Rabner as attorney general.... A short time later, she was the only one of 40 senators to vote against Mr. Rabner."
  13. ^ chief Justice Stuart Rabner, New Jersey Supreme Court. Accessed August 11, 2007.
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ New Jersey Attorney General biography, version from Internet Archive copied as of April 2, 2007. Accessed December 17, 2007.
  17. ^ Corzine names Rabner attorney general The Courier-Post, August 24, 2006.
  18. ^ Rabner confirmed as attorney general, The Courier-Post, September 26, 2006.
  19. ^ Straight-laced, quick-witted and caring, The Record (Bergen County), December 17, 2005.
  20. ^ Weiser, Benjamin "In New Jersey, Sweeping Shift on Witness Identifications", The New York Times, August 25, 2011. Accessed June 17, 2012.
  21. ^ [2]"What Did They Really See? New Jersey's Strict New Rules on Eyewitness Evidence Could Become the National Standard", The New York Times, August 27, 2011. Accessed June 17, 2012.
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^ slip op. at 15-16
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^

External links

Legal offices
Preceded by
Anne Milgram (acting)
Attorney General of New Jersey
September 26, 2006 – June 29, 2007
Succeeded by
Anne Milgram
Preceded by
James R. Zazzali
Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court
2007 – present
Succeeded by
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