NJSBA President speaks out on judicial independence

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March 25, 2016

Contact: Kate Coscarelli 
Senior Managing Director of Communications
NJSBA President Miles S. Winder III published an op-ed urging Trenton lawmakers to break their political impasse over judicial nominees.
The op-ed appeared in The Star-Ledger on Sunday, March 20.
Here is an excerpt:
"New Jersey’s judicial system is in dangerous and all-to-familiar territory.
In the past seven years, our Judiciary has come under unprecedented attack which has undermined its independence and status as the co-equal third branch of government.  In 2010, with no legitimate basis, Governor Chris Christie took unrivaled action to not reappoint Justice John E. Wallace Jr., a Democrat, to the New Jersey Supreme Court for tenure.  Since then he has assailed other justices as well as judges of the Superior Court, and in 2012, again with no legitimate basis, he refused to nominate a second Supreme Court jurist, Justice Helen E. Hoens, a Republican, for tenure.  The judiciary is still reeling from these actions.
Unfortunately, this chain of events continues in the current battle between the Governor and the state Legislature over the makeup of our Supreme Court.  While Justice Hoens’ seat was filled with a Republican jurist, Justice Wallace’s seat has been vacant since 2010.   Senate President Stephen Sweeney pledged he will not let the Governor use his extraordinary ouster of Wallace to bully the Senate and pack the Court with a Republican majority.
Unlike our federal courts, the New Jersey Supreme Court is being served by temporary assignment of Appellate Division Judge Mary Catherine Cuff and operates with a full complement of seven justices.
On the national stage, our Democratic President has appointed a candidate for the United States Supreme Court, and the Republican Senate immediately stated it will refuse to have hearings for the nominee.  Now, after more than three years of inaction on the vacant seat and in the midst of this national political impasse, Governor Christie renewed his battle with Senator Sweeney by nominating Superior Court Judge David Bauman, a Republican, to fill Justice Wallace’s vacancy. The irony is apparent; the political gamesmanship the same.
The New Jersey Constitution is clear that the Governor nominates and the Senate provides “advice and consent.”  Though the past actions of our Governor reverberate throughout the Judiciary today; as we have in the past, the New Jersey State Bar urges the Senate to fulfill its constitutional duty and hold a hearing for Judge Bauman. We must move forward."
Read the full op-ed