- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 18, 2009

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - The New Jersey Supreme Court on Wednesday declined to force Gov. Jon S. Corzine to release e-mail exchanges with his ex-girlfriend, who leads a public employee union, ending a potential distraction to his fall re-election bid.

Republican Party leader Tom Wilson had sought a court order forcing Corzine, a Democrat, and his staff to make public e-mails they exchanged with Carla Katz during labor talks in 2006-07.

Corzine and Katz dated before he became governor. Both were involved in negotiating the current contract between public worker unions and the state, though neither was at the bargaining table.

Wilson argued that the public had the right to examine the e-mails to determine whether any backdoor negotiating had taken place. He said he wondered whether the past relationship between the governor and the president of the largest state worker union tainted the labor talks.

The governor and his legal team fought to keep the e-mails private by citing executive privilege, a legal principle that allows members of the executive branch to keep certain communications confidential in order to govern effectively.

Corzine said he is glad the issue has been resolved.

“I think we had a political fishing trip by folks that’s gone on for far too long,” Corzine said after bill-signing in Trenton.

He also defended the contract the state signed with the unions, saying it saved $6.4 billion and required union members to pay more into their pensions and health care.

The Supreme Court’s decision not to hear an appeal, a denial of a petition for certification, effectively ends litigation that threatened to spill into the campaign.

Corzine, the former CEO of Goldman Sachs, could face a serious GOP challenge when he runs for a second term in the November election. One potential Republican challenger, former U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie, is leading Corzine in early polls.

A trial judge had ordered the e-mails released. That order was reversed in a strongly worded, unanimous appellate ruling, which admonished Wilson for acting on mere suspicions of improper conduct.

After losing at the appellate level, Wilson urged Corzine to make good on his pledge for government transparency by releasing the e-mails anyway. When that failed, Wilson petitioned the state’s highest court to hear the case.

Corzine said releasing the e-mails after having successfully defended the privilege principle would defeat the point.

Wilson said he was not surprised by the outcome.

“I’m a little disappointed in the Supreme Court, but I’m more disappointed in Jon Corzine,” said Wilson. “He’s hiding behind executive privilege rather than letting people see the facts and decide for themselves whether he should be trusted.”

Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, appointed by Corzine, recused himself from Wednesday’s decision. Associate Justice Helen Hoens, another Corzine appointee, participated. Of two associate justices reappointed by Corzine, Jaynee LaVecchia participated and Virginia Long did not.

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