Two retired judges will co-chair a new task force on judicial independence established by the New Jersey Bar Association. According to the bar association’s president, the task force will direct its efforts at “current threats to weaken our judiciary.” As IAALS Online has covered in the past, there is longstanding tension between Governor Chris Christie and the legislature when it comes to making judicial appointments, particularly to the state’s high court. The senate rejected two Christie nominees to the supreme court back in June 2012, and the replacement nominees announced in December 2012 have yet to receive a hearing in the senate. A third vacancy on the court will be created when Justice Helen Hoens steps down later this month, after Christie departed from tradition for a second time during his tenure and declined to renominate her. On the same day that the bar’s task force was made public, the senate announced a scheduled hearing for Hoens’ replacement on October 17.
There is also longstanding tension between the governor and the supreme court, with Christie promising to remake the court after unfavorable rulings on school funding and affordable housing. And, there could be a new source of conflict after a trial court earlier this week issued a ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in the state. Christie has asked the supreme court to fast-track the case, bypassing the intermediate appellate court. In 2012, Governor Christie vetoed a same-sex marriage bill approved by the legislature.