Retired NJ judges can fill vacancies temporarily, high court rules

 New Jersey's Supreme Court has upheld a law allowing retired judges to come back temporarily to fill vacancies in courts around the state. (AP file photo)

New Jersey's Supreme Court has upheld a law allowing retired judges to come back temporarily to fill vacancies in courts around the state. (AP file photo)

New Jersey’s Supreme Court has upheld a law that allows judges forced to retire at 70 to come back temporarily to fill vacancies in courts around the state.

 

A majority of the Justices ruled that a recall statute in effect since 1975 is consistent with the state Constitution and does not violate the separation of powers.

The ruling will help prevent backlogs in trial court cases, said Bob Williams, a professor at Rutgers Law School in Camden.

“We have an extraordinary number of judicial vacancies in New Jersey because of a deadlock between the Senate and governor over various political issues,” he said. “So this would have had very negative consequences to the people if it had gone the other way.”

Frank Askin, director of the Constitutional Rights Clinic at Rutgers Law School in Newark, called it a  very pragmatic decision.

“The practical implication is that judges can be recalled and cases can be heard. Otherwise, we’d be in terrible shape with all the vacancies on the bench,” Askin said.

The law does not violate the separation of powers because the governor has the right to nominate a replacement when a judge retires, according to the ruling.

Several trial court positions remain vacant because political issues have blocked Senate confirmation of Gov. Chris Christie’s appointments.

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