By not re-appointing Justice Wallace, Governor Christie has sent a message to every sitting judge awaiting reappointment: obey my political dictates or face not being reappointed. Christie has interjected himself into every courtroom throughout the state. He will be looking over the shoulder of every sitting judge without tenure saying: Do as I say or suffer the consequences!
We cannot allow the judiciary to be infected with politics. New Jersey is better than that. No democracy can survive with a judiciary terrorized by any political leader.
Governor Christie will have ample opportunity to make his political beliefs heard upon appointment of new judges. Imposing his political dogma on a sitting judge affects the integrity and independence of our judiciary. The Senate and its Judiciary Committee must stand up to this attack on the integrity and independence of the judiciary and not even consider any nominee to replace Justice Wallace. The Supreme Court has done quite well, thank you, with less than seven members voting. The senior judge of the appellate division who would sit while Justice Wallace’s seat remains vacant, Judge Stern, certainly has better qualifications than the Christie nominee. Regardless, we cannot reward bad behavior. We must not even consider Governor Christie’s replacement of Justice Wallace. To do so would just encourage repeated bad behavior.
I prefer to listen to the wise advice of Governor Kean:
“Judges have to be totally free to make up their minds on a particular case. They should not have to think how their opinion will affect next year’s election or even their reappointment. They should simply view the facts of the case and interpret the law. Accordingly, there has not been a judge since the constitution was adopted in New Jersey who has been denied reappointment based on court opinions or political beliefs. The day that happens, the New Jersey judiciary will be undermined. And I was not going to be party to any such event.