N.J. Constitutional Convention: Vol. 4, Page 644


Part II


Constitutional Provision for Pensioning Judges

of judges upon retirement. Legislative provision is made in twenty-five states, but such legislation is of the widest variety. The Constitution of Louisiana, Article VII, Sec. 8, provides that any Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, or District Court judge may retire at the age of 70 on two-thirds pay if he has served continuously for 20 years prior to retirement (retirement is mandatory at 80).

Constitutional provision for pensioning of judges would seem a desirable concomitant for a compulsory retirement age. The constant emphasis is, or at least should be, to make judicial careers sufficiently attractive to lawyers of outstanding ability so that they will not only be amenable to appointment, but will remain on the bench. Exceptionally qualified judges sometimes retire to re-enter law practice because of the inadequacy of existing provisions for pension upon retirement.

Removal of Judges

The great majority of American states provide in their constitutions for the removal of judges for misconduct by the traditional method of impeachment by the popular branch of the legislature and conviction by the Senate. The present New Jersey Constitution so provides. Article VI, Section III. However, the requirement of "concurrence of two-thirds of all of the members of the Senate" has been practically construed to require fourteen votes to convict, regardless of vacancies in the office of Senators. It resulted, for example, in the 1934 impeachment proceedings against a former State Comptroller and a judge for respectively receiving and giving a bribe to secure the appointment of the judge, that the judge was convicted while the Comptroller was acquitted. In the case against the Comptroller a vote of thirteen to two against the defendant was insufficient to convict. Only fifteen voted since there were, at the time, three vacancies, and of the remaining eighteen Senators, three were absent. As a remedy for such a situation, it has been suggested that if the Senate is to continue to try impeachments, conviction should be obtainable by a two-thirds vote of the members sitting, with fifteen to be a quorum but a minimum of eleven (majority of twenty-one) required for conviction.

The further view has been advanced that salutary results might be expected if trial of impeachment charges against judges of courts other than the highest court of appeal (except judges elected or appointed locally) were to be tried by that body instead of by the Senate, with five votes necessary for conviction if the court were a seven-man tribunal. Under this plan only the judges of the highest court would continue to be subject to impeachment by the Assembly and conviction by the Senate, subject to the modification indicated.

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