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State of New Jersey

Judicial Selection in the States: New Jersey

Overview

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New Jersey's judiciary has two appellate courts--the supreme court and the appellate division of the superior court, and three trial courts--the superior court, the tax court, and the municipal court. The superior court is the court of general jurisdiction. The governor, with the approval of the senate, chooses all judges in New Jersey. Judges stand for reappointment after seven years in office, and once reappointed, they serve until they reach the age of 70.

There are two interesting features of judicial selection in New Jersey. The first is the practice of senatorial courtesy. New Jersey's constitution of 1844 deliberately mirrored the judicial appointment process for federal judges. Like U.S. senators, New Jersey's senators have veto-like powers over judicial appointees from their home districts. As a professional courtesy, other senators will not proceed with confirmation of a judicial candidate unless the senators from the home district have signed off. Until 1994, senators had been able to hold up judicial reappointments as well, but a widely criticized incident led the senate to change the rules of reappointments so that they are now considered by the senate judiciary committee without receiving the approval of the home senator. Some in the state have suggested that the same procedures should apply to new appointments.

New Jersey's courts also have a tradition of political balance. Governors, regardless of their party affiliation, have generally followed a policy of replacing outgoing judges with someone of the same party or philosophy. On the supreme court, the traditional balance is three Democrats and three Republicans, with the chief justice belonging to the party of the appointing governor.