Saturday, April 12, 2014

Jersey Bar Leaders call for constitutional amendment

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's pledge to remake the state's courts has encountered substantial resistance from the bar which seeks to preserve the judiciary's long-established insulation from politics.- gwc

New Jersey State Bar Association - NJSBA resolution urges constitutional amendment to protect judicial independence:

For sixty years no member of the New Jersey Supreme Court was denied nomination for tenure at the conclusion of the justice's seven year initial term.  The Trustees of the New Jesey State Bar Association have endorsed former Associate Justice Gary Stein's proposal for a state constitutional amendment which would embed past practice in the state's charter.  

The proposal would block the unprecedented actions of Gov. Chris Christie who has twice refused to nominate for tenure highly regarded Justices of the State Supreme Court.  Helen Hoens - a reliably conservative voice on a court once noted for marked liberalism - was spurned despite almost twenty years as a judge - the past seven on the high court.  John Wallace was spurned early in the Christie era.  He was a moderate who supported some of the governor's initiatives.

Justice Stein would amend Article VI, Section VI, Paragraph 3 shall to read:

“The Justices of the Supreme Court and the Judges of the Superior Court shall hold their offices for initial terms of seven years. They shall be reappointed by the Governor, with the advice and consent of the Senate, unless they have demonstrated unfitness for such reappointment, and upon reappointment shall hold office during good behavior.

The New Jersey Law Journal Editorial Board - a strong campaigner for judicial independence - has added its voice to the State Bar's saying:
The New Jersey Constitution's reappointment provision (art VI, sec. 6, par. 3) states: "The Justices of the Supreme Court and the Judges of the Superior Court shall hold their offices for initial terms of seven years and upon reappointment shall hold their offices during good behavior."
There is no doubt it was intended to deny reappointment only to those whose initial term of service demonstrated they were morally or temperamentally unfit. As one senator observed during the convention, "if they are qualified, they have no fear of not being reappointed."
For more than 65 years, New Jersey governors honored this interpretation of that provision, reappointing 25 justices even in the face of significant political disagreement with their decisions.
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