A comment made by a state senator bout not giving a "damn what the Constitution said" sparked reaction largely as partisan as the Senate vote Thursday to confirm the state attorney general.

Sen. Dick Codey, D-Essex, on Thursday was responding to a Republican lawmaker bringing up Gov. Phil Murphy dismissing a question about the Bill of Rights as being "above my paygrade" back in 2020 during the height of the pandemic and pushback about severe restrictions imposed by executive orders.

Sen. Michael Doherty, R-Warren, had just finished his own remarks on the Senate floor, criticizing actions of then Acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin.

“It’s my understanding that every executive order that Governor Murphy issued during the coronavirus shutdown was also signed by Mr. Platkin.


And, I was alarmed when I saw Governor Murphy appear on national TV and he was asked by a reporter - well you’re issuing a lot of executive orders that many think are trampling on the Constitution and have you thought about maybe you don’t have the authority to do that, under the Constitution?


And the governor responded, 'I don’t think about those issues, that is above my pay grade.' ”

“It's very cavalier that the Constitution was not considered," Doherty continued. "Many, if not most of my constituents felt they were abused by these orders."

Sen. Doherty on Platkin, Murphy, constitution (NJ Legislature archive)
Sen. Doherty on Platkin, Murphy, constitution (NJ Legislature archive)

“So, Mr. Platkin was sitting here signing these documents, advising Governor Murphy as he was trampling on the New Jersey Constitution and the federal Constitution as well,” the Warren County legislator said.

After Doherty, who grew up in Glen Ridge, finished speaking, Codey began by addressing him directly.

“To my colleague, Senator Dougherty — former Essex County young man — when the Coronavirus hit, I didn’t give a damn what the Constitution said. I wanted us to be safe, I wanted to beat the virus.”

“We needed leadership; leadership that had, worked 24-7, we all know that... and according to everybody I talked to, they did a damn good job," Codey said.

"Nobody, no governor has ever before in the history of this state been hit with something like that — and now we’re going to criticize? And, how that plays into Mr. Platkin because he was counsel to the governor? I don’t get it,” added Codey, who served as governor after the resignation of Gov. Jim McGreevey, from November 2004 until January 2006.

He said of the Attorney General's Office: “I want somebody who is independent, gonna do the right thing, not afraid to go after the bad guys” - adding “let’s give this young man the opportunity to do what’s right.”

Back in August, Doherty had already voted against allowing the nomination to advance after questioning Platkin on a series of issues, including his age and beliefs in a “Creator of the universe, as reported by NorthJersey.com.

Senate confirms new attorney general months after nomination

On Thursday, the state Senate confirmed Platkin in a 24-10 vote, making his role permanent, which he called the "honor of a lifetime."

"Since my nomination, I have worked closely with the incredible public servants in the Department of Law and Public Safety, the dedicated women and men in law enforcement, and our community stakeholders to advance the cause of justice and protect New Jerseyans," Platkin said in a written statement.

"I pledge to continue to work tirelessly to end the scourge of gun violence, to strengthen trust between law enforcement and the broader public, and to protect the rights of our residents. I want to once again thank Governor Murphy for his trust and support in nominating me to serve the people of this great State as New Jersey’s Attorney General."

Erin Vogt is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach her at erin.vogt@townsquaremedia.com

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