Faustino “Fuzzy” Fernandez-Vina (Image: Rutgers)

Fuzzy, Was He?—Not since Byron ‘Whizzer’ White ascended to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1962 has a judge’s nickname drawn so much attention. For N.J. Supreme Court Justice Faustino ‘Fuzzy’ Fernandez-Vina, it seems to be inescapable.

Like White, Fernandez-Vina’s nickname derives from football. Playing midget football in Barrington, he reminded others of popular Green Bay Packers guard Fred “Fuzzy” Thurston. He took the moniker with him to Widener University, where he continued playing football and captained the team.

The nickname first became widely publicized last fall, when Gov. Chris Christie nominated Fernandez-Vina to the state high court to replace Justice Helen Hoens. He took the bench Nov. 19 but was sworn in formally on Jan. 15 during a ceremony at his alma mater, Rutgers Law School-Camden.

Christie, who spoke at the swearing in, said “Fuzzy” was “exactly the right name” for Fernandez-Vina, explaining that “when you are picking a judge [you look for someone] who understands it is an exalted position, but doesn’t believe themselves to be exalted.”

When “Fuzzy” took to the stage at the ceremony, he said he was “honored and humble.”

Teresa Giudice

Trial Separation—Another week, another ripple in the legal saga surrounding Joe and Teresa Giudice of the The Real Housewives of New Jersey.

Facing multiple criminal charges, including bankruptcy fraud and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, the spouses have requested to be tried separately. In petitions filed by their lawyers in federal court in Newark on Jan. 15, the Giudices say that since Joe plans to take the Fifth Amendment, a joint trial would be prejudicial for Teresa, who would not be allowed to invoke the marital privilege against testifying against her husband.

Joe also claims to have evidence that will clear his wife of any wrongdoing and that will salvage her reputation, saying in the court documents that she was kept completely in the dark about any “misrepresentations” on loan and credit applications.

The reality stars were indicted in July and pleaded not guilty in November.

Joe also faces charges for failure to file tax returns from 2004 to 2008. His lawyer, Clifton solo Miles Feinstein, did not respond to a request for comment.

Teresa’s lawyer, Henry Klingeman of Krovatin Klingeman in Newark, says that “the motion papers speak for themselves,” and that he has “nothing to add until we address the court at the hearing.”

There was some good news for the Giudices this month. They avoided a forced sale of their Towaco mansion after a petition to remove the home from their bankruptcy case, due to its “inconsequential value to the estate,” went unobjected and was certified on Jan. 13.

Jeff Gold

Diet DWI—A finding that drinking diet soda mixed with alcohol markedly increases Breathalyzer readings is turning heads.

According to a report published in the research journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, the study tracked Breathalyzer readings and reaction times of 16 imbibing participants. The test subjects were given three drinks—vodka mixed with a sugary drink, vodka mixed with diet soda, and a placebo—over three sessions.

Those who drank the diet soda mixtures had Breathalyzer results 18 percent higher than their counterparts. They also showed slower reaction times, as well as rated themselves as thinking they were less drunk than they actually were.

The report, titled “Artificial Sweeteners Versus Regular Mixers Increase Breath Alcohol Concentrations in Male and Female Social Drinkers,” comes at a time when New Jersey DWI defense lawyers are already unconvinced of the reliability of results from the breath tester in use in the state, the Alcotest 7110.

Cherry Hill attorney Jeffrey Gold, who concentrates in DWI defense, says that “if [the study's results are] true, then it’s unfair.” He points out that New Jersey law specifically says it doesn’t matter how people get over the legal blood-alcohol-content limit as long as they’re there. “You could be breathing in alcoholic fumes at work” and still be cited, he says.

Sandra Day O’Connor

Inspiring Presence—Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor will be at Richard Stockton College in Galloway Township on March 24 to give the inaugural lecture for the Pappas Visiting Scholar Series.

The free lecture, open to the public, will be moderated by Thomas Wilner, managing partner of the International Trade & Investment Practice of Shearman & Sterling in Washington, D.C.

Stockton trustee Dean Pappas said that he hopes that the chance to see O’Connor and other speakers provides students with the “transformational experience” that he had hearing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa.

O’Connor, appointed in 1981 by President Ronald Reagan, was the first woman ever to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court. During her tenure, she was the swing vote in controversial decisions, including the upholding of Roe v. Wade, which garnered her support from liberal-leaning organizations.

Since her retirement in 2005 (she was replaced by Samuel Alito), O’Connor has authored books, appeared on television shows and launched Our Courts America, a website designed to teach the public about the court system’s role around the nation. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2009.

—By Jennifer Genova