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NJ Working Families Director Sue Altman. Photo by Nikita Biryukov for the New Jersey Globe.

Altman: Judicial reappointment amendment would compromise court independence

Activist rails against measure allowing Senate to extend judicial terms past retirement

By Nikita Biryukov, February 06 2020 1:45 pm

NJ Working Families State Director Sue Altman railed against a constitutional amendment that would allow the Senate to unilaterally reappoint judges who reached the mandatory retirement age Thursday.

“If passed, this amendment would give judges a strong incentive to decide controversial cases in ways that cater to the senators who will decide whether they can remain on the bench,” Altman said. “New Jersey’s Constitution today zealously protects the independence of our state courts. Judges confirmed to a tenured position on the bench can only be removed for misconduct. This frees them to make tough calls in high-stakes cases without having to worry about political fallout.”

The measure, sponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Nicholas Scutari and State Sen. Kip Bateman, would allow the Senate to reappoint judges who reach the age of 70 without a nomination from the governor.

The amendment would apply to Supreme Court justices as well as judges in the state’s superior and tax courts, as well as those administering workers comp and administrative law.

“This ill-conceived constitutional amendment represents a direct threat to the concept that the rule of law — and not political considerations — should be the guiding principle animating our legal system,” Altman said.

Altman is a major political opponent of South Jersey powerbroker George Norcross and Senate President Steve Sweeney, who is a close ally of Scutari’s.

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