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A New Jersey Supreme Court justice who refused to participate in all decisions while a temporary judge is assigned to the bench has tempered his protest.

Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto said in an opinion published Wednesday that he will issue decisions in cases in which Judge Edwin Stern participates, so long as the judge's vote doesn't affect the outcome.

Rivera-Soto said he'll continue to defer a decision to vote in cases where Stern's position changes the outcome.

Rivera-Soto maintains it's unconstitutional to have a temporary justice on the court when a quorum of five is present. Chief Justice Stuart Rabner appointed Stern to fill a vacancy that occurred when Gov. Chris Christie did not reappoint Justice John Wallace in May, leaving the seven-member court one member short.

Democrats who control the state Senate have refused to consider Christie's choice to replace Wallace, corporate lawyer Anne Patterson.

Rivera-Soto recently announced his plans to step down rather than seek renomination when his term expires in September. It was doubtful that the justice, who was reprimanded by the court in 2007 for intervening in a conflict between his son and another student at Haddonfield Memorial High School, would have been renominated.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney, who has been among Rivera-Soto's harshest critics, said Wednesday that the justice is unfit to serve.


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