As was widely expected, Gov. Jon Corzine will nominate state Attorney General Stuart Rabner to succeed retiring Supreme Court Chief Justice James Zazzali on Monday, according to the Star-Ledger


The newspaper cites three officials familiar with Corzine’s plans as the sources for the story.

The Asbury Park Press has an Associated Press story that also identifies Rabner as Corzine’s choice, citing one unnamed source.

By law, Zazzali, of Rumson, must step down upon turning 70 years old. His 70th birthday is June 17.

Rabner is just 46, which could mean that Corzine’s impact on the character of the could last a generation or more.

Both reports say that first assistant Attorney General Anne Milgram is likely to be tapped by Corzine to succeed Rabner as the state’s top law-enforcement official.

From the Ledger:

“This was expected all along,” Senate President Richard Codey (D-Essex) said today. “He’s an excellent choice. I think he’s fair. I don’t necessarily think he tilts either way, ideologicially. He’s a man of integrity and a voice of reason.”

Corzine spokesman Anthony Coley said only “the governor’s office has no announcement at this time.”

Rabner would replace James Zazzali, a well-regarded jurist and former attorney general who held the top spot for less than a year after replacing Deborah Poritz when she turned 70 in 2006.

Rabner took over as attorney general last year as then-AG Zulima Farber became embroiled in an ethics controversy. Rabner had been chief counsel to Corzine, a post he assumed after a long career as a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Corzine never really considered naming anyone else for chief justice, officials said.

David Wald, a spokesman for Rabner, declined to comment this morning.

New Jersey’s had a number of attorneys general make the leap to the court and it’s top job. Zazzali, himself a former AG, succeeded former state AG and US District Attorney for New Jersey Deborah Poritz.

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