Law Day 2002 Remarks
Remarks of Daniel M. Waldman
President, New Jersey State Bar Association.
Governor McGreevey, members of the NJSBA Board of Trustees, past state bar presidents, current and former chairs and members of the state bar Judicial and Prosecutorial Appointments Committee, members of the Hughes family and other guests.
It is an honor and a pleasure for me to welcome all of you to the Law Center today. We are blessed not only by the Governor's presence, but also by a beautiful spring afternoon. I thank you all for joining us.
This is a great day for the people of New Jersey, as well as for the New Jersey State Bar Association, because the Governor has agreed to reaffirm the historic agreement, or Compact, between the state's chief executive and the state bar association.
The Compact calls for the Association to provide the Governor with an evaluation of the qualifications of prospective judges and county prosecutors. This independent and non-partisan evaluation has helped produce a judiciary that is second to none, and a strong cadre of vigilant prosecutors.
It is fitting that the reaffirmation of the Compact will occur literally in the shadow of the statue of Richard J. Hughes, our beloved former governor and chief justice. In 1969, he was the first governor to enter into the Compact at the request of the state bar association and it served him, subsequent governors, and the people of New Jersey well for 30 years.
Governor McGreevey's visit could not have been better timed, coming as it does on Law Day. Regrettably, the passage of Law Day registers only slightly on the public's consciousness. But, it is a day of great importance within the legal profession because it marks America's commitment to the rule of law that has long been the cornerstone of our democracy.
One essential component of the rule of law is a respected judiciary and New Jersey has been blessed with one of the most capable and respected in the nation. Many factors have contributed to the success of our court system. Governors with foresight have made quality appointments to the bench a priority, and judicial leaders have demanded superior performance and accountability from judges and all others within the court system.
The backbone of the judiciary, however, will always be the men and women who every day don their black robes and preside over courtrooms across the state. Justice is literally in their hands. We trust our judges to wisely exercise the enormous powers conferred upon them, and we pray that they dispense justice fairly and dispassionately.
New Jersey's county prosecutors similarly enjoy great respect. They are key leaders in the state's law enforcement structure. We rely on their skill and judgment to help ensure public safety and effectively pursue wrongdoers. Prosecutors make critical decisions every day, dealing with events that deeply touch families and communities. The list of county prosecutors is long and distinguished and our state has benefited greatly because of their efforts.
It is of obvious importance, therefore, that we subject the women and men who seek the bench, and the prosecutor's office, to the strictest scrutiny, so the people of New Jersey are provided with judges and law enforcement leaders of the highest character and competence.
I am proud that for over 30 years (through the tenure of seven prior governors) the New Jersey State Bar Association has played an important role in evaluating candidates for the bench, and for the office of prosecutor.
We have done so through the efforts of our Judicial and Prosecutorial Appointments Committee. The members of the committee, lawyers from across the state, have done extraordinary work for decades. Although the chairpersons and membership of the committee changes, its mission and commitment have never wavered - to investigate and evaluate for the Governor potential nominees for the Supreme Court, Superior Court, Tax Court, and County Prosecutor. And they have done an exemplary job.
I am happy to say that the committee will again be "officially" considering Supreme Court nominees. The authority to do so was halted by former Governor Whitman. In fact, last May, the NJSBA Board of Trustees issued a report recommending improvements to the state's judicial selection process. Chief among those recommendations was a belief that "the Hughes compact must be reaffirmed with the…incoming governor with respect to appointments to the Supreme Court."
You should all note, however, that the three Supreme Court nominees announced after this unilateral policy change appeared voluntarily before the committee and were found qualified. While the compact had been unilaterally changed, these nominees still had respect for the process, and the valuable role that the state bar committee plays.
You may also find interesting that Mayor Michael Bloomberg is expected to announce today that in his own selection process for appointments and reappointments to the bench in New York City, he will not select anyone who has not been recommended by a special mayoral panel and reviewed and approved by the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. Today, the public on both sides of the Hudson, are winners.
The New Jersey State Bar Association is proud to have served Governors Hughes, Cahill, Byrne, Kean, Florio, Whitman and Acting Governor DiFrancesco, and to have contributed to the public interest. We are extremely pleased to be able to reaffirm the compact with Governor McGreevey so that we may continue to serve him and the people of this state.
However, before presenting Governor McGreevey, I would like to introduce Michael Murphy, one of Governor Hughes' sons for a brief presentation of a gift linking the two governors. Mr. Murphy.
I am now pleased to present to you, the Honorable James McGreevey, Governor of the State of New Jersey.