N.J. Constitutional Convention: Vol. 4, Page 497


STATE OF NEW JERSEY CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION OF 1947
COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
Wednesday, July 30, 1947 (Morning session)

League of Women Voters, I wish to state that the opinions which I now express are consistent with the ideas of the League but that I am speaking as a citizen.

The Judiciary Article which you are presenting as a tentative draft is very good. I wish to speak as a resident of the small county of Somerset for the complete inclusion of the county courts in the state system. No judicial system can be better than the judges who administer it, and your Committee has obviously given great thought to the problem of assuring the selection of competent judges and removing them from the extraneous considerations which might impair their judicial judgment. Citizens who may be involved in probate and criminal cases, no less than in civil cases, would benefit by the same type of judicial competency. You have provided that judges of the state courts shall serve on a full-time basis and shall not practice law or other gainful occupation while serving on the bench. You have also provided that any judge may reasonably expect to pursue his office as a career, provided he demonstrates that he is capable of performing his function with competence and ability.

These provisions are regretably absent as regards judges of the county courts. In small counties such as mine, the case load is too small to absorb the full time of one judge. Since no county will pay for time which it does not use, it is necessary that a judge be allowed to follow some other gainful occupation, most frequently that of the law. His efforts are therefore divided between his judicial function and his private occupation. This is not in the best interest of the litigant.

In addition, no judge of a county court, at least where there is only one judge, as in the smaller counties, has any expectation that he will pursue the occupation of judge as a career. Each change in the political scene is followed by a change in judicial personnel. The office is considered a just reward for political service. This means that the advantages of experience are lost to the public. I sincerely question the merits of any system in which the prime qualification of a judge is his service to one or the other of our two major political parties.

What valid reasons can be found for the retention of the county courts, other than political considerations? Is justice a matter of geography? What is there to the argument that a citizen of Somerset County can receive fair treatment only from a judge who resides in Somerset County? Is there any logical reason to believe that he would not receive the same justice from a resident of Hunterdon or Middlesex? I submit that the quality of the justice received will depend upon the quality of the judge himself, not upon his place of residence, and I believe sincerely that the best interest


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