Judicial selection in New Jersey

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Judicial selection in the states
Judicial selection in New Jersey
Seal of New Jersey.png
New Jersey Supreme Court
Method:   Gubernatorial appointment with senate confirmation
Term:   until age 70
New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division
Method:   Gubernatorial appointment with senate confirmation
Term:   until age 70
New Jersey Superior Court
Method:   Gubernatorial appointment with senate confirmation
Term:   until age 70

Selection of state court judges in New Jersey occurs largely through a system of gubernatorial appointment with state senate confirmation. With the exception of municipal court judges, all members of the judiciary are appointed to initial seven-year terms, after which they serve until age 70 if reappointed.[1]

New Jersey practices senatorial courtesy in judicial appointments, a custom borrowed from federal judicial selection methods. Like U.S. senators, New Jersey senators have the final say on judicial nominees from their respective districts. Other senators are not to confirm a candidate if the senators from the nominee's home district have not given approval.[2]

Another New Jersey custom, not upheld by the state constitution but by longstanding tradition, is the practice of having the governor appoint a judge of the same political party as his or her predecessor, regardless of the governor's own affiliation.[2]

Selection of judges

See also: Gubernatorial appointment of judges

The seven justices of the New Jersey Supreme Court, the 34 judges of the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division and the 371 judges of the New Jersey Superior Court are all chosen in an identical manner. When a vacancy occurs on one of the courts, the governor appoints a successor to be confirmed by the state senate. Newly appointed judges serve for seven years, after which they may be reappointed to serve until age 70.[1]

It is common for a judge to be renominated after his or her initial seven years of service. However, Governor Chris Christie surprised many when he did not renominate sitting Justice John Wallace in 2010, claiming that his body of work represented "a different philosophy."[3] Former Justice Helen Hoens had a similar experience in 2013 when Governor Christie failed to reappoint her.[4] See also: New Jersey governor nominates attorney over incumbent for Supreme Court and Justice Hoens says goodbye

Selection of the chief justice or judge

The chief justice of the supreme court is chosen by the governor with senate confirmation, serving in that capacity for the duration of his or her service. The chief judges of the other courts are designated by the supreme court chief justice to serve indefinitely.[1]


To be eligible to serve on the appellate and general jurisdiction courts, one needs only to have practiced law in New Jersey for at least 10 years and be under the age of 70. Retirement at 70 is mandatory.[1]

Limited jurisdiction courts

New Jersey's limited jurisdiction courts (the municipal courts and tax courts) vary in their selection processes:[5]

Municipal Court Tax Court
Selection: Mayoral appointment with city council consent OR appointment by municipal governing body* Gov. appt. with senate confirmation
Term: 3 years until age 70
Re-election method: Same as initial selection Reappointment after 7 years, then full term
Qualifications: State resident; practicing attorney for more than 5 years Experienced in state practice for more than 10 years; special knowledge and experience with taxation matters
*In joint municipal courts, which are courts that serve more than one municipality, the appointment is made by the governor with senate approval.[5]


Selection methods in New Jersey have undergone various changes since the inception of the judiciary. Below is a timeline noting some of the stages, from the most recent to the earliest:

  • 1994: Senate President Donald DiFranceso implemented a major revision in senate procedures on judicial reappointments (not initial appointments) that effectively bypassed the senatorial courtesy tradition. All gubernatorial nominees for judicial reappointment are now automatically referred to the senate judiciary committee for review. The policy is not formal, but the procedure has continued to date.
  • 1947: The New Jersey Constitution was revised, establishing that all judges of the supreme and superior courts are to serve initial seven-year terms.
  • 1844: Established that the governor, with senate approval, is to appoint the chancellor and supreme court justices to seven-year terms. It was also established that court of common pleas judges are to be appointed by the state senate and general assembly while inferior court judges are to be appointed by the governor with senate consent.
  • 1776: New Jersey's original constitution dictated that all judges are to be appointed by "council and assembly" (both legislative houses). Supreme court judges were to serve for seven years before lifetime reappointment; other judges were to serve five years before reappointment.[6]

Selection of federal judges

United States district court judges, who are selected from each state, go through a different selection process than that of state judges.

The district courts are served by Article III federal judges who are appointed for life, during "good behavior." They are usually first recommended by senators (or members of the House, occasionally). The President of the United States of America nominates judges, who must then be confirmed by the United States Senate in accordance with Article III of the United States Constitution.[7]

Step ApprovedA Candidacy Proceeds DefeatedD Candidacy Halts
1. Recommendation made by Congress member to the President President nominates to Senate Judiciary Committee President declines nomination
2. Senate Judiciary Committee interviews candidate Sends candidate to Senate for confirmation Returns candidate to President, who may re-nominate to committee
3. Senate votes on candidate confirmation Candidate becomes federal judge Candidate does not receive judgeship

See also

External links


New JerseyNew Jersey Supreme CourtNew Jersey Superior Court, Appellate DivisionNew Jersey Superior CourtsNew Jersey Municipal CourtsNew Jersey Tax CourtUnited States District Court for the District of New JerseyUnited States bankruptcy court, District of New JerseyUnited States Court of Appeals for the Third CircuitNew Jersey countiesNew Jersey judicial newsNew Jersey judicial electionsJudicial selection in New JerseyNewJerseyTemplate.jpg