Since 1969, the New Jersey State Bar Association has been the only non-political element in the appointment process for judicial and prosecutorial offices in New Jersey. The State Bar Association, through an agreement with New Jersey governors since Governor Richard J. Hughes, reviews the qualifications of candidates for the nominated judicial and prosecutorial positions and reports to the governor its position regarding the candidate’s fitness to serve in the nominated position. This agreement is known as the Judicial Compact. Governor Christopher J. Christie reaffirmed the current Judicial Compact on April 10, 2010.
The Judicial Compact’s review process is handled by the State Bar Association’s Judicial and Prosecutorial Appointments Committee (JPAC). The Committee’s review operates under complete confidentiality. Once the Committee reaches a conclusion with regard to a candidate, the Chair of the JPAC communicates the Committee’s determination of whether a nominated candidate is qualified or not qualified directly to the governor’s office only. If the Governor continues to persist with the nomination despite a “not qualified” determination, the State Bar Association may testify before the State Senate Judiciary committee concerning its determination regarding the nominee’s fitness for the position of Supreme Court justice and the reasons for that position.
Recently, Governor Christie nominated Philip Kwon and Bruce Harris as potential state Supreme Court Justices. In a statement released by New Jersey State Bar Association’s President Susan A. Feeney, the State Bar Association has fully committed to honoring the spirit and intent of the Agreement between itself and Governor Christie. The State Bar Association will continue to evaluate all candidates thoroughly and will make no comments regarding the specific nominees regarding their review until such time that the reviews are concluded. President’s Feeney’s comments can be found online here.