N.J. Constitutional Convention: Vol. 4, Page 10

Tuesday, June 24, 1947 (Morning session)

Elevating the Dignity of the Offices of Those Entrusted with the Trial of Important Criminal Actions and Jury Cases

latter has exceeded that of the Common Pleas Judge. Thus, it has come about in this State that we have a hierarchy of trial judges, the Vice-Chancellors outranking the Circuit Court Judges and the Circuit Court Judges outranking the Common Pleas Judges. This is an historical accident. Equitable property rights, with which the Court of Chancery is chiefly concerned, receive the consideration of the ranking class in this hierarchy, namely, the Vice-Chancellors; whereas personal rights, the rights of those charged with crimes, are entrusted to the judiciary lowest in the scale. Surely, cases involving human rights are to be accorded - ought to be accorded - equal treatment with those involving property rights. Moreover it is not to be denied that important murder and criminal cases now entrusted to Common Pleas Judges are, of all cases, the most demanding on the talents of a trial judge.

The objective of the Commission's proposal was to elevate the position of the Common Pleas Judges and Circuit Court Judges to that held by the Vice-Chancellors. Certainly, in so doing there need be no derogation from Chancery's dignity.

Tenure and Qualification of Judges

Under the Commission's proposal the Governor was to appoint, with the advice and consent of the Senate, all the judges of the State other than those with jurisdiction limited to one municipality. Moreover, it was provided that these municipal judges must be appointed under a uniform method.

The Legislature in 1944 changed our plan in one respect, namely, by requiring that there be at least one so-called Resident Judge or Justice of the Superior Court residing in and appointed for each county. In my opinion, this was a deplorable attempt, designed primarily to secure for each Senator - and I have been a Senator, and I know what Senators do - a certain amount of patronage. I trust the Convention will not yield to any arguments in that direction, because in the long run I see nothing whatsoever to be gained by this except the one claim that is made for it, that of placing the judge near his home so that the lawyers can readily get in touch with him.

Since the 1942 proposal was promulgated much publicity has been given to the plan adopted in Missouri in 1940 for the selection of judges there. Under this plan, insofar as it is applicable in this State, the Governor, with the advice and consent of the Senate, will appoint judges from a list of three names submitted to him by a Selection Commission. The Commission could be composed of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court as chairman, two lawyers elected by the bar at large, and two laymen appointed by the Governor. The members other than the Chief Justice would have four-year terms each, staggered so that one term expires at the end of each year, and they would be eligible to succeed themselves. This pro-

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