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Alumni Association Backs Constitutional Amendment Intended to Protect Independence of State Judiciary

May 21, 2014 – 

It was at Rutgers School of Law–Newark in April that the Honorable Gary S. Stein, Associate Justice (Ret.) of the New Jersey Supreme Court, first proposed a Constitutional amendment that would end “the diminishment and demoralization of the Judicial branch of the State Government” by requiring that all state judges be reappointed unless they are unfit. 

Justice Stein made his proposal in delivering the 31st Annual Chief Justice Joseph Weintraub Lecture. The lecture is sponsored by the law school and the Rutgers School of Law–Newark Alumni Association (RSLNAA).

On May 15, at the second public hearing of the New Jersey State Bar Association (NJSBA) Task Force on Judicial Independence, RSLNAA president Barbara A. Schweiger ’98 announced the association’s resolution in support of the proposed amendment. “It is evident,” she read, “that the time has come to reaffirm the stature, respect and independence of the State Judiciary and allow judges to be free to make difficult decisions based on the rule of law, regardless of tenure status, by expressly conforming the State Constitution to the intent of its framers and by guaranteeing that the reappointment of a judge or justice be based only on their fitness to serve.” 

Schweiger noted that failure to uphold the stature, respect and independence of the State Judiciary undermines the public interest to which the law school and its Alumni Association have historically shown a strong commitment.

The Alumni Association resolution expresses strong support for NJSBA’s request to the New Jersey Legislature to enact a resolution to place a constitutional question on the November 4, 2014 ballot to approve an amendment to Article VI, Section VI, Paragraph 3 of the State Constitution. The question, with proposed new language underlined, would read: 

“The Justices of the Supreme Court and the Judges of the Superior Court shall hold their offices for initial terms of seven years. They shall be reappointed by the Governor, with the advice and consent of the Senate, unless they have demonstrated unfitness for such reappointment, and upon reappointment shall hold office during good behavior.