Are More Changes in Store for the New Jersey Judiciary?

If New Jersey voters approve pension cuts for New Jersey judges this November, many members of the judiciary may consider employment elsewhere. To make it more difficult for them to leave, Judges now have new, strict rules that will limit their employment opportunities.

Below is a sample of the restrictions for retired judges and New Jersey Supreme Court justices, as detailed in the most recent Guidelines on the Practice of Law by Retired Judges:

  • A retired judge can practice law after retirement, but he or she cannot sign any papers filed in court, including pleadings. 
  • A retired judge may not serve as an attorney in any contested matter in any court of the State of New Jersey. This means a retired cannot participate in any proceeding before the court, although he or she can perform other legal work related to the case such as drafting motions and discovery.  
  • A retired judge may generally not serve as attorney in matters before either state or local administrative agencies, boards, or tribunals exercising a discretionary or quasi-judicial function.
  • A retired judge may not accept fee-generating court-initiated appointments, e.g., appointments to serve as a receiver, condemnation commissioner, guardian ad litem, mediator, arbitrator, or discovery master, unless it is through certain approved programs.

In addition to these restrictions, new rules that will take effect on September 4 will also limit the ability of sitting judges to seek post-retirement employment while they are still on the bench. Under amended Rules Governing the Courts of the State of New Jersey, judges must recuse themselves if they have discussed or negotiated post-retirement employment with any party, attorney or law firm involved in the matter. The new rules also disqualify a judge from any case where he or she has initiated contact about, discussed or negotiated postretirement employment with a party, lawyer or law firm in the case.

Under these new rules, judges must be very careful when initiating any type of job search in order to avoid disqualification. The commentary provided with the rules suggests that sitting judges should confine their employment discussions to as few firms as possible and delay their job search until just before retirement.

In a piece of good news, legislation has been introduced that would increase the mandatory retirement age for New Jersey judges to 75. Judges would remain eligible for retirement benefits after 10 years on the bench, but could continue working past the age of 70. Many New Jersey judges already do so as the strapped court system often “recalls” retired judges to help deal with the backlog of cases. Like the pension reform, raising the mandatory retirement age requires legislative approval as well as a voter-approved constitutional amendment.

For more on this issue please click here to read “New Jersey Judges Looking for Post-Retirement Employment Will Have to Comply With New Rules,” posted on our Government & Law Blog.

Donald Scarinci is a managing partner at Lyndhurst, N.J.-based law firm Scarinci Hollenbeck.  He is also the editor of the Constitutional Law Reporter and Government & Law blogs.

Are More Changes in Store for the New Jersey Judiciary?