WASHINGTON (CN) – The Senate on Tuesday confirmed a former legal adviser to ex-New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to a seat on the Third Circuit.
A partner at the Roseland, N.J., firm Lowenstein Sandler, Paul Matey worked as counsel to Christie from 2010 to 2015, starting as assistant counsel and rising to the level of deputy chief counsel in 2012.
As a result of his time in the governor’s office, Matey faced questions about his involvement in the various scandals that dogged Christie’s time in office. Matey said he was not aware ahead of time of some of the administration’s biggest scandals, including the infamous “Bridgegate.”
That scandal involved the closure of lanes on the George Washington Bridge in alleged retaliation against a mayor who did not endorse Christie’s re-election bid. Matey, who at the time was deputy chief counsel to Christie, told senators he learned of the scandal when media outlets first reported it in September 2013 and that he was only involved in “the initial stages of an internal investigation” into the incident.
Matey said at his nomination hearing in November that he installed “rigorous” ethical standards while working in the governor’s office.
“I do believe that based on publicly available information, the violations of federal law related to the George Washington Bridge in 2013 constituted a lapse of ethics by the individuals charged by the United States Department of Justice,” Matey wrote in response to questions submitted after his nomination hearing. “While I had no involvement in this matter, and was never a target or subject of any investigation, I regret that this matter arose during my services as counsel to the governor.”
But Matey was unable to answer several questions lawmakers posed about other scandals during the Christie administration, saying the governor was his client and he therefore could not disclose specific advice he gave on a range of incidents.
Matey’s nomination was also the latest to fall into controversy over the so-called blue slip policy, which has in the past given senators a say in judicial nominees from their home states.
Under previous versions of the policy, nominees have not received a hearing until both of their home-state senators consent. Former Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said senators could not withhold blue slips to delay nominees to federal circuit courts without showing they had not been able to give input to the White House.
Senator Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who now chairs the committee, has continued Grassley’s policy.
Senators Cory Booker and Bob Menendez, both Democrats from New Jersey, said the White House did not give them a say over Matey’s nomination. Booker first met with Matey last week, a courtesy he said he did not receive before Matey appeared for his nomination hearing or was voted out of committee.
In a floor speech on Tuesday, Menendez said he has still not met Matey and that he was not given a chance to influence Trump’s pick for the vacancy.
“There never was meaningful consultation between the White House and Senator Booker or me to identify a highly qualified consensus nominee,” Menendez said on the Senate floor. “Rather, we were informed about the decision to nominate Mr. Matey. Nor did I receive an offer to meet with Mr. Matey – not before his nomination, not after his nomination, not to date.”
A member of the conservative Federalist Society, Matey won confirmation in a 54-45 vote Tuesday afternoon.