Monday, July 29, 2013

Courting Justice - 10 NJ Cases that Shook the Nation // Book review |

The impact of the New Jersey Supreme Court is often remarked upon, but rarely systematically surveyed and assessed.  Its success is attributable to the judiciary's freedom from electoral demands, and from the sixty year consensus that grants of tenure after the seven year term should be made routinely on good behaviour.  Jonathan Lazarus, reviewing, observes 
"However, all the carefully crafted bipartisanship of the past came crashing down with the current governor and Legislature. The implosion occurred when Gov. Chris Christie refused to reappoint the only black member of the court, asserting he wanted to change “liberal” and “activist” tropes of the justices. The Legislature retaliated by derailing all of his nominees, save one. Happily, this sideshow is not the focus of “Courting Justice.” The book keys on the court as it does due diligence clarifying (critics might say muddying) the law, and the substantial impact exerted by its rulings in New Jersey and beyond."
I relate a part of the story in People's Electric : Engaged Legal Education at Rutgers Newark Law School in the 1960's and 1970's.  Paul Tractenberg looks at the Court and analyzes and explores the court's impact in narrative commentary by astute observers and participants.  Courting Justice is essential reading for many reasons - and particularly important for its illumination of that too little recognized source of creative legal thinking - state constitutional law. With notable modesty Tractenberg leaves that concluding chapter to Seton Hall's John Wefing who contributes "New Jersey's 1947 Constitution and the Creation of a Modern State Supreme Court".  - GWC

N.J.'s top court the subject of supreme scrutiny: Book review |
Courting Justice: 10 New Jersey Cases That Shook the Nation
Edited by Paul L. Tractenberg
Rutgers University Press, 288 pp., $27.95
Reviewed by Jonathan E. Lazarus:
...The 10, in chronological order: Henningsen vs. Bloomfield Motors (1960), allowing consumers to sue over defective products; Marini vs. Ireland (1970), granting tenants eviction shields; Southern Burlington County NAACP vs. Township of Mount Laurel (1975), a mandate for affordable housing that continues to vex the body politic; In Re Karen Ann Quinlan (1976), establishing guidelines to allow a patient to die with dignity; and Right to Choose vs. Byrne (1982), permitting abortion funding for the poor.
Also, State vs. Hunt (1982), a test of the new federalism allowing state courts more latitude; In the Matter of Baby M (1988), putting the surrogate child first in awarding custody; Lehmann vs. Toys ‘R’ Us (1990), expanding protection against sexual harassment; Doe vs. Poritz and Megan’s Law (1975), allowing community notification of sex offenders, since modified by constitutional amendment to permit internet postings; and Robinson vs. Cahill/Abbott vs. Burke, cases dating to the 1970s that persist today through Abbott XXI. The rulings posit the right to a thorough and efficient education, but the funding formulas have been the rub... 

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