N.J. Constitutional Convention: Vol. 4, Page 579


Explanation of Draft of Proposed Judicial Article Recommended by the Committee1 See page 26 for draft of Judicial Article proposed.

4. Independence and Responsibility of the Judges

(a) Concerning the Selection of Judges. Such a Judicial Council to assist the Governor in the selection of judicial nominees would go far toward removing judicial nominations from the close political control that now exists. At the present time, the selection of a jurist is in the hands of two partisan branches of the government, the legislative and the executive. We often hear complaints of the political complexion of some of our courts. A Judicial Council consisting of not more than nine members and representing the judiciary, the lay public and probably the organized bar would certainly include responsible and less partisan persons, peculiarly well qualified to pass upon desirable judicial material. (Sec. V, par. 1). We have purposely left some details of composition and organization of the Council to legislation, feeling that there should be leeway for experimentation.

Similar plans to mitigate partisanship in the selection of judges are in operation or under serious consideration in a number of states. The most noteworthy example is in Missouri, which adopted the so-called "non-partisan court plan" for nomination by a commission composed of representatives of the bench, bar and public in 1940, and defeated a partisan attempt to overthrow the system two years later. The St. Louis Bar Association received the American Bar Association award for its part in promoting this plan, which was based on proposals long under study by the American Judicature Society, the American Bar Association and the National Municipal League.

We propose initial terms of five years to enable a new appointee to demonstrate his fitness for a judicial career before he is given a long term as judge or justice. Whether short terms are followed by life tenure, or by long fixed terms, it is felt that reappointment of good judges on their records should definitely be the rule. We have therefore provided that the Judicial Council may, after public hearing, recommend reappointment of a justice or judge without submitting additional names. This procedure should have a salutary effect on the court and put a premium on merit rather than politics as the consideration for reappointment.

In order to place ultimate responsibility and to avoid protracted deadlocks, the Governor would be permitted in the last resort to nominate without regard to the proposals of the Judicial Council, provided he conveyed his own reasons and the comments of the Council to the Senate. We believe this would happen rarely, if ever. (Sec. V, par. 2)

(b) Concerning Methods of Removal and Retirement (Sec. V, pars. 4 and 5). Necessary concomitants of long terms are feasible removal and retirement procedures.

The failure of impeachment to serve its purpose is widely recog-

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