New Jersey's judiciary - roiled by years of conflict as Governor Chris Christie tried to reverse longstanding affordable housing and school equity precedents - is shorthanded. The 420 member Superior Court bench has over 50 vacancies and another dozen looming. Meanwhile the Supreme Court must decide whether the mandatory retirement age of seventy bars the forty year legislatively sanctioned practice of recalling senior retired judges. They have been the finger in the dike but a dissent in the Appellate Division forces them to decide if the state constitution bars the remedial measure.
Paris Eliades the State Bar President has issued a distress call. But neither the recall issue nor the proposal to fix the constitution, perhaps by extending the retirement age to seventy five, is mentioned. - GWC
Dear Governor Christie, Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Senate Minority Leader Kean:
New Jersey's judiciary is facing a crisis.
With 52 vacancies and another 12 looming, our judges are stretched beyond reason. They are struggling to meet the justifiable needs of the citizens of this state who have every right to look to their courts to settle their grievances in the manner contemplated by the constitution and our democracy.
As a result of these unprecedented numbers, judges are carrying staggering caseloads and court officials are turning to desperate measures, leading to delays and hardships for people seeking divorces, the resolution of business disputes and many other cases.
In recent years, these measures have forced Assignment Judges in Essex and Union county to halt the consideration of certain cases and just last week Bergen County imposed limitations on family and civil trials. The staggering number of vacancies means that such measures are likely to increase if immediate relief is not provided.
As Bergen County Assignment Judge Peter E. Doyne said last week in published reports: "I have asked everyone to work harder, but there is only so much to be done."
The solution lies in your capable hands.***
Paris P. Eliades, President
New Jersey State Bar Association
August 13, 2014