Star-Ledger file photoNewark Councilman Ron Rice in a 2008 file photo. Now, boys, stop all this fighting! I’m talking about the brawl that has broken out over senatorial courtesy. In one corner, we have Ron Rice, a Democratic state senator and former Marine from Newark who has invoked the practice known as “senatorial courtesy” to block the nomination of Christopher Cerf for education commissioner.In the other corner, we have Gov. Chris Christie, who, in return, is holding up a bunch of nominees for the Superior Court of Essex County. In the middle are all the people who need to have their cases heard in court.Neither of the combatants seems to care about them. But Ed Hartnett does. Hartnett is a professor at Seton Hall School of Law in Newark. He has done a lot of research on a tactic that the governor could employ to counter the practice of senatorial courtesy. That tactic is recess appointment. Hartnett authored an extensive law review article on the power of recess appointment in the federal constitution. He argues that the recess-appointment power in our state constitution is comparable. But New Jersey governors have never exercised it.It’s time to start. This senatorial privilege business has gone too far. In fact, it went too far in 2010, when Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) announced he would not hold a hearing on Christie’s nomination for the state Supreme Court because he was miffed that the governor had failed to reappoint his friend to the court. Harnett notes that while the state constitution says nothing about the practice of senatorial courtesy, it says quite a bit about the power of the governor to fill vacancies: “The governor may fill any vacancy occurring in any office during a recess of the Legislature,” it states. The framers clearly intended this as a check on the powers of the Legislature, he said. The Senate has a check of its own. It can hold a hearing on the nominee. If the votes are there, it can throw the person out of office. Either way, the logjam is broken.“In the chess game that is politics, sometimes, it’s the threatened moves that bring people to the table,” Hartnett says. “The reason you give different branches different powers isn’t so they can always stand on the extreme version. But if I stand on the extreme version, I may lose, so let’s compromise.” The Star-LedgerChris Christie with Steve Sweeney behind him. And compromise is what’s needed here. Cerf would have the same powers regardless of whether Christie made a recess appointment. It would just be a matter of calling the Senate’s bluff. The one potential snag in making a recess appointment is that the Senate leaders insist they’re never in recess — unless they say so. Hartnett disagrees. Their annual summer vacation would easily qualify as a recess on the federal side, he says. And then there’s the interval between the current session and the swearing-in of the new Legislature, which occurs on the second Tuesday in January.Of course, any fight over that would likely go to court — or, in other words, to judges who have plenty of reason to dislike senatorial courtesy and no reason to like it. Senatorial courtesy would likely be trumped by recess appointment.Courtesy should have disappeared long ago, in 1964, to be precise. That was the year the U.S. Supreme Court issued its one-man, one-vote decision. Till then, there was one senator per county. In 1966, the constitution was amended to have 40 senators representing districts that can span counties. The most extreme example in the new map that takes effect next year is Somerset County, parts of which are represented by six senators, all of whom can exercise courtesy.Those senators have courtesy in their home counties, as well. That’s a recipe for chaos. The new map gives Essex County Democratic Sen. Richard Codey courtesy in part of Republican-dominated Morris County. Meanwhile, Republican Assemblyman Sam Thompson of Old Bridge will have courtesy over Democrat-dominated Middlesex County.Someone has to put a stop to this and that someone is the governor. He could do it the way the president does, through recess appointments. But perhaps he has a better idea. If so, let’s hear it. Related editorial: Time to end senatorial courtesy in N.J.