For Immediate Release
Sr. Director, Communications
Statement of Ralph J. Lamparello
President, New Jersey State Bar Association
For nearly 20 years, Justice Helen E. Hoens has served the people of New Jersey with distinction as a judge of the Superior Court, as a judge of the Appellate Division and for the past seven years as a Justice of our Supreme Court. Like Justice John Wallace before her, she has served honorably, evaluating each case based on the law and on the facts before her. Her opinions were thoughtful and well-reasoned, and she always conducted herself with the utmost professionalism. She does not deserve to be treated as a political pawn in the battle between the Governor and the Legislature over our Courts.
Governor Christie has now twice broken with 60 years of tradition and ignored the clear intention of the framers of our 1947 Constitution to create a strong and independent judiciary, what former U. S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist called the “crown jewel” of our democracy. The clear intent of our Constitution is that judges were to be denied tenure only in limited circumstances, and never for political reasons. That precedent had been honored for the reappointment of the Justices of our Supreme Court by every Governor since 1947.
The rhetoric here smacks of political one-upsmanship—and will continue the slippery slope we began traveling when the Governor made the then unprecedented move of not renominating Justice Wallace for tenure in 2010. The result of today’s action will be further erosion of the independence of our courts, whose role as the third branch of government is to balance the other two branches and to protect the rights of the citizens of this state.
As New Jersey Governor Alfred E. Driscoll noted at the 1947 Constitutional Convention, “there is no liberty if the powers of judging be not separate from the legislative and executive powers.” It is time for the Governor and the Legislature to end their war over our Courts and to exercise their roles in the judicial appointment and reappointment process in the way the framers of our Constitution intended.