N.J. Constitutional Convention: Vol. 4, Page 209

Thursday, July 3, 1947 (Morning session)

MR. BROGAN: Would you care to talk about tenure?

JUSTICE COLIE: I have no doubt about that whatsoever, Judge Brogan. I think the way to get at things is to give the judges tenure during good behavior.

MR. BROGAN: Would you favor giving tenure to the judges of the court of last resort without probationary terms, and to the trial judges tenure after probationary terms?

JUSTICE COLIE: Perhaps, Judge Brogan, the probationary term is the best thing in the long run. Mistakes do happen, and if they happen it is better to be able to correct them when it would be least painful to everyone concerned, and that would seem to be at the end of a probationary period which I don't think should be seven years.

MR. GEORGE F. SMITH: How long do you think it should be, Justice Colie?

JUSTICE COLIE: Well, I think it should be considerably less than that. Everyone should be able to tell in considerably less than five years, whether a judge has those qualities which make him acceptable.

COMMITTEE MEMBER: I wouldn't make it less than five, sir.

MR. SMITH: I don't expect it to happen in New Jersey, but it is possible the Governor appointing the justice might, within his own term, change that probationary appointment to a permanent appointment. If, for example, as is proposed, the Governor's term is for four years with the opportunity to succeed himself, he would be in office eight years. Do you think we should concern ourselves with the possibility that we would get the wrong kind of Governor in some future years, that we should protect ourselves against a particular Governor packing that court with men of his own choice?


MR. SMITH: It is a possibility, though?

JUSTICE COLIE: It is a possibility, but frankly, it is a condition which I am just unable reasonably to conceive happening.

MR. SMITH: The thing that concerns me in my question - the probationary period is one thing, permanent appointment for life depends upon good behavior, or some other condition, that could freeze that justice in the highest court -

JUSTICE COLIE: I might add one thing in connection with life tenure, or tenure during good behavior. I would like to have some more workable method of removal for cause than impeachment.

MR. SMITH: Before you pass to life tenure - looking back to our history, has this trial period, as far as our high court is concerned, meant anything? As you look back on cases, has there ever been an occasion where there has been denial of reappointment after a first term? I am talking about our top level courts.

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