NEW JERSEY – Senator Doug Steinhardt called for the executive and legislative branches of state government to act quickly to fill a growing number of judicial vacancies that have reached crisis levels.
“Chief Justice Stuart Rabner took the drastic step of suspending civil and matrimonial trials in parts of the State, including Warren County, citing a lack of judges to handle those matters and the ongoing failure of government to work together to fill those vacancies,” said Steinhardt (R-23). “Given the magnitude of the problem and the impact on people and families, we need to act now to keep our courtrooms open. We need the Governor’s Office to work with legislators to make good nominations for all judicial vacancies, and the Senate advice and consent process to work swiftly and efficiently.”
Steinhardt’s comments followed an announcement by New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner yesterday that civil trials will stop on February 21 in Cumberland, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Salem, Somerset, and Warren counties due to a shortage of judges.
Rabner said there were 69 unfilled judicial vacancies statewide.
Steinhardt said the impact of Rabner’s order on Vicinage 13, which covers Hunterdon, Somerset, and Warren counties, where there are currently five vacancies out of 20 judicial positions.
“It’s a crisis for New Jerseyans when they can’t get their day in court to resolve a difficult divorce or child custody issue,” Steinhardt said. “With four more judges retiring by June 30, nearly half our courtrooms in the region will be empty. As the Chief Justice recognized, our courts don’t work without judges. I’ve been working with our county bar associations, the Governor’s Office, and my colleagues in the Senate to ensure that these important judgeships are filled quickly. I am hopeful that several nominations will be announced shortly for the Senate to act upon.”