Restores role for county bars and expands membership to be more inclusive
The following is a message from NJSBA President Robert B. Hille:
The New Jersey State Bar Association, through its Judicial and Prosecutorial Appointments Committee (JPAC), has been honored to play an important, non-partisan role in the review and vetting of candidates for the bench and prosecutor’s positions. Since 1969, in an agreement initially outlined with Gov. Richard J. Hughes, the Association has had a Judicial Compact with every governor’s office to review candidates in a confidential process.
I am pleased today to report that Gov. Phil Murphy has renewed the Judicial Compact. On behalf of the Association's over 18,000 members, I am grateful to the Governor for taking this important step toward ensuring an independent and well-qualified Judiciary in our state. You can read the newly executed Compact here.
The NJSBA’s role in the process protects and promotes a fair, impartial and independent Judiciary, which is a hallmark of the rule of law in a vigorous democracy. Our JPAC conducts an extensive investigation into a lawyer’s qualifications to serve as a justice, judge or county prosecutor. That investigation includes interviewing judicial and personal references, as well as reviewing a list of matters the person has handled. During the past 49 years, the committee has reviewed thousands of candidates with the purpose of providing information, insight and guidance to numerous governors to evaluate the candidates who will preside in the state’s courts and prosecutor offices.
RESTORING A ROLE FOR COUNTY BARS
We are especially pleased that this updated Compact brings the county bar associations back into the process. The NJSBA successfully worked to restore a significant role for county bars, outlined in the Compact itself, as part of the confidential candidate review process. We know how important it is to hear from the practitioners who are most likely to have worked with candidates and are confident that the process will benefit as a result of this additional input.
In that same vein, I am pleased that Gov. Murphy agreed to expand the size of JPAC so that three seats can be designated for members from underrepresented groups in the legal profession. New Jersey is one of the nation's most diverse states. It benefits from residents who represent a richness of different experiences and backgrounds. It is critical that our legal system be equally inclusive. Adding members to the vetting committee who bring a diversity of professional and life experiences will enrich our review and ensure that it is as thorough as possible.
The NJSBA is proud to provide this service on behalf of the legal community and citizens of this state. It is a duty we will continue to perform with the highest degree of integrity. This is an important day for the NJSBA, the legal community and the public at large.
To learn more about how JPAC works, read on:
JPAC REVIEW AT-A-GLANCE
The Committee review process is independent and confidential, and the committee’s deliberations are separate and apart from those of the association’s Board of Trustees and reported only to the Governor’s office. The only goal is to ensure that qualified people are appointed as judges and prosecutors. The result is that New Jersey’s judges reflect people from every political party, from every area of practice and from all walks of life. In its evaluation of judges for initial appointment to the bench, the committee has identified eight criteria to instruct their deliberations.
The criteria the committee uses in determining whether a candidate is qualified include:
• Undisputed integrity
• A high degree of knowledge of established legal principles and procedures, and a high degree of ability to interpret and apply them to factual situations
• That they have been a licensed attorney in New Jersey for at least 10 years
• An appropriate judicial temperament, which includes common sense, compassion, decisiveness, firmness, humility, open-mindedness, patience, tact and understanding
• A commitment to diligence, punctuality and effective management skills
• The requisite physical and mental abilities to be able to perform the essential functions of the job
• Demonstrated financial responsibility
• Demonstrated participation in public service activities