When politics collides with selecting judges, the outcome can directly affect people who use our courts. The latest evidence of this concern comes from a NJ.com article reporting the following:
“Scores of divorce and civil trials in Bergen County have been suspended indefinitely due to judicial retirements and an ongoing political battle between the governor and Democratic state senators.”
New Jersey requires Senate confirmation of the governor’s judicial nominees, similar to the federal method for picking judges, but its judges do not get lifetime appointments as federal judges do. Gov. Chris Christie is a Republican, and the Senate is controlled by Democrats.
On Monday, Bergen County Assignment Judge Peter E. Doyne announced that starting in mid-September, due to judicial vacancies in Bergen County, family and civil trials likely to last more than two weeks will not be held. With 36 judgeships authorized, the county is short six judges, and three more judges plan to retire Sept. 1.
“We are aware of the Superior Court vacancies in Bergen County and have been working with legislators to resolve issues and present nominees for consideration by the Senate Judiciary Committee,” a spokesman for Christie said.
State Sen. Kevin O’Toole, a Republican, said there’s an “epidemic” of judicial vacancies across the state, with 21 vacancies in Essex County. “People are now understanding that we have to move rapidly,” he said.