New Jersey State Bar Association - The voluntary Bar Association of New Jersey, serving members since 1899.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 01/08/10
CONTACT:Kate Coscarelli
Director of Media Relations
732-937-7548

Bar Association launches investigation, reemphasizes commitment to civility

NEW BRUNSWICK – The New Jersey State Bar Association launched an investigation into the alleged behavior of a Judicial and Prosecutorial Appointments Committee member who conducted an interview of a state Superior Court nominee during which sexist language may have been used in the course of performing due diligence on the candidate.

“The New Jersey State Bar Association holds fast to the ideals of the fair administration of justice and due process, and does not tolerate or condone offensive behavior under any circumstance,” said State Bar President Allen A. Etish.

The State Bar regards the confidential evaluation of candidates for the bench and county prosecutors as one of the most critical services it performs for its members and the public. It is a confidential, but not secret process. Committee members must keep information confidential, and the NJSBA reports the information to the Governor’s Office, but candidates are free to discuss the process.

“At no time before today’s Senate Judiciary Committee did the Association learn about the use of any alleged offensive language, which we join the Senate Judiciary Committee in condemning,” Etish said.

Etish added further: “We take great pride in the trust the Governor’s Office puts in us to ensure only the most qualified nominees are considered. The agreement, the so-called Hughes Compact, dates back to 1969 when it was first signed by Gov. Richard Hughes. It is a privilege to have such an active role in the review.”

As the Compact states: “The Governor of the State of New Jersey and the New Jersey State Bar Association have, in past years, found substantial public benefit in devising, developing and implementing a process for the nonpartisan evaluation of candidates for judicial and prosecutorial office.”

The Association’s compact with the Governor’s Office is modeled after the agreement between the President of the United States and the American Bar Association.

“We do not believe the behavior of one individual – if the accusations are proven true – should affect the Committee’s role in the vetting of judicial and prosecutorial candidates. Over the past 40 years, the Committee has conducted hundreds of interviews -- including 60 since last June -- with the sole aim of providing insight and guidance to the Governor in order to find the best possible candidates to serve in our justice system,” said Etish.

As the nominee, Cathy Wasserman, indicated the alleged offensive statements came from an individual during a one-on-one interview during the investigation, and that when the entire Committee interviewed her, she was treated with respect.

In addition, the Association reaffirms its commitment to civility, and will to continue to incorporate diversity and sensitivity training as a part of the curriculum for all current and future members of Judicial and Prosecutorial Appointments Committee.