N.J. Constitutional Convention: Vol. 4, Page 11

Tuesday, June 24, 1947 (Morning session)

Tenure and Qualification of Judges

posal is something to be considered, I think, by this Committee. We did not have it before us in 1942.

The Revision Commission in 1942 proposed that the Justices of the Supreme and Superior Court be counsellors-at-law of ten years' standing, and that they should not engage in the practice of law or other gainful occupation. Moreover, it proposed that each Justice of the Supreme Court prior to his appointment must have been at least one year a Justice of the Superior Court; however, after appointment he was to hold office during good behavior until age 70. The Justices of the Superior Court were each to hold office for a term of seven years, and if re-appointed, then to hold office during good behavior until age 70. Thus, each member of these courts was to serve a trial term, and if he was then promoted to the highest court or re-appointed to the Superior Court, he need not thereafter in his judicial career look to political influence for further reappointments. I think that that was one of the finest proposals we made. This business of limiting tenure for judges is, I think, very disastrous.

According to the plan advocated by Hon. Hatton Sumner for the federal system, the issue of good behavior with respect to the highest court was to be triable by the Senate, and with respect to all other judges of the State, by the Supreme Court.

Administration of the Courts

Under the Commission's plan, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court was constituted the administrative head of all the courts of the State and required to supervise the work of all the courts. Thus, the Commission sought to construct a unified judicial department of government in place of the large number of one-judge tribunals we now have throughout the State. Perhaps the most important function of the Chief Justice was to assign the Justices on their appointment and annually thereafter, and from time to time as need appeared. By leaving the power of assignment to the Chief Justice, a lawyer, the specialized experiences of the judges would most surely be availed of. By providing for annual reassignments, an opportunity was presented, without disturbing the usual course of things, to move a judge to another section or county when it would best serve justice.

The Revision Commission also proposed that the Chief Justice be directed to appoint an executive director to serve at his pleasure and to assist him in his administrative tasks. I think that is highly important, and it should not be expected of a man, a man learned in the law, that he should constantly have his mind disturbed by administrative details which now must disturb the Chief Justice tremendously.

Previous Page in Book ********* Table of Contents *********** Next Page in Book