The newest member of the New Jersey State Senate wants Gov. Phil Murphy and his Senate colleagues to move quickly to fill judicial vacancies that have led to a suspension of civil and divorce trials in six counties as of February 21.
State Sen. Doug Steinhardt (R-Lopatcong), a former GOP state chairman, is one of the lawmakers affected by Chief Justice Stuart Rabner’s announcement. He represents three of the six counties affected by Rabner’s decision to send a message to Murphy and state senators from both parties that he wants the vacancies filled.
“Given the magnitude of the problem and the impact on people and families, we need to act now to keep our courtrooms open,” Steinhardt said. “We need the Governor’s office to work with legislators to make good nominations for all judicial vacancies, and the Senate advice and consent process to work swiftly and efficiently.”
In Vicinage 13, which includes Hunterdon, Somerset, and Warren counties, there are five judicial vacancies out of 20 seats on the court. But the New Jersey Globe has confirmed that notices of intent from Murphy to fill three seats in Somerset County is imminent.
Steinhardt, who took office at the end of last year after winning a special election convention, has no outstanding judicial nominations awaiting his sign-off.
“It’s a crisis for New Jerseyans when they can’t get their day in court to resolve a difficult divorce or child custody issue,” Steinhardt said. “With four more judges retiring by June 30, nearly half our courtrooms in the region will be empty. As the Chief Justice recognized, our courts don’t work without judges.”
The Republican lawmaker said he’s been working with our county bar associations, the Governor’s office, and Senate colleagues.
The other counties affected by Rabner’s shot across the bow are Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem.