Inter-Branch Tensions Flare in New Jersey

May 23, 2013

In remarks at last week's annual conference of the state bar association, Justice Barry Albin encouraged members of the legal profession and the public to defend New Jersey's courts against attacks by the other two branches based on dissatisfaction with court decisions. He went on to suggest that the governor and the legislature have injected politics into the judicial appointment process. Although Justice Albin did not mention him by name in his speech, Governor Christie responded, calling the justice a “grandstander” who “played to the cheap seats.” Last month, Christie and a state senator sparred publicly over the political standoff that has left fifteen judicial seats vacant on Essex County courts—the busiest courts in the state. At the same time, two seats on the seven-member supreme court have been vacant for more than a year. Christie's latest nominees for these vacancies have been pending in the senate since last December, following the senate's rejection last June of two earlier nominees. Some commentators have expressed concern that the stalemate between the governor and the senate will ultimately harm the court's reputation.