With several judgeships to be filled, state Sen. Gerald Cardinale of Bergen County and his colleague Nicholas Scutari, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, are trying to tighten the requirements, claiming that too many inexperienced lawyers have made their way to the bench after spending precious little time in actual courtrooms.
They got major pushback, however, from a cluster of influential lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle.
As a result, Cardinale and Scutari were forced to pull a proposed state constitutional amendment from consideration this week that would require that new appointees to the bench have at least 15 years of experience practicing law. As it stands, appointees need only 10 years with the state bar association even if he or she hasn’t actually tried or defended a case in that time.
The measure would include not only state Superior Court judges but New Jersey‘s Supreme Court, s well as the Tax Court, Workers’ Compensation Court and Office of Administrative Law.
Scutari, a Democrat, and Cardinale, the ranking Republican, didn’t get very far. Their bi-partisan venture was driven back by bi-partisan oppositon from, among others, Union City Democratic Mayor Brian Stack and Republican state Sen. Joe Kyrillos of Middletown, in addition to state Sen. Kevin O’Toole (R-Cedar Grove) who said he saw no “compelling argument” to put the question of a constitutional amendments on the ballot.