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Confirmation of Lowenstein's Paul Matey Flips 3rd Circuit to Republicans

Paul Matey testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation hearing to be U.S. circuit judge for the Third Circuit, on Nov. 13, 2018. Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM

The U.S. Senate voted by a 54-45 margin on Tuesday to confirm Paul Matey to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

With Matey's confirmation, the Third Circuit shifts to a 7-6 majority of Republican appointees, making it the first court of appeals in the nation to see its composition switch under President Donald Trump, who has been clear on his goal to remake the federal judiciary with conservative judges. Trump previously appointed Stephanos Bibas and David Porter to the 14-member court of appeals.

On Monday, after a vote to close debate on the Matey nomination was split on party lines, Sen. Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey, sharply criticized Republicans for advancing Matey's nomination without the consent of the two home-state senators.

"It's shameful. So long as this president keeps packing our courts with corporate-friendly, Federalist Society judges, the Republican majority is willing to destroy a process Sen. Orin Hatch once called the ‘last remaining check on the president’s judicial appointment power,'" Menendez said in remarks on the Senate floor.

"President Trump’s nominees are now being confirmed at record speed despite objections from home-state senators,” Menendez said. "There never was meaningful consultation between the White House and Sen. Booker, or me, to identify a highly qualified consensus nominee."

Menendez said Matey would be the third judicial nominee to receive an appointment without a blue slip from either home-state senator.

A former senior counsel and deputy chief counsel to Gov. Chris Christie, Matey also was senior vice president and general counsel at University Hospital in Newark before joining Lowenstein Sandler in Roseland, New Jersey, as a partner in September 2018.

Matey attended the University of Scranton and Seton Hall University School of Law. Before joining Christie in the governor's office, he was an assistant U.S. attorney for the District of New Jersey, focusing on securities, health care and investor fraud, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and child exploitation.

Matey replaces Julio Fuentes, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1999 and went on senior status in 2016.

One other vacancy on the Third Circuit still awaits a nominee: the seat vacated when Thomas Vanaskie took senior status last November. President Barack Obama appointed Vanaskie to the court of appeals in 2009.

Democrats have sought to link Matey to the Bridgegate scandal and other controversial aspects of Christie's tenure as governor, and to problems at University Hospital. At the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing on his nomination in November 2018, Democrats suggested Matey endorsed the Christie administration's alleged practice of seeking political endorsements from local mayors, as long as it was carried out after hours. Matey said he had no knowledge of such activities.

In the Bridgegate scandal, three associates of Christie were prosecuted for creating gridlock in Fort Lee after that city's mayor refused to endorse Christie's gubernatorial re-election campaign.

Also at the Judiciary Committee hearing, Matey was asked whether he was involved with a deal by the Christie administration allowing Trump to settle a $30 million tax bill for his Atlantic City casino properties for $5 million. Matey responded that he had no personal involvement in that matter.