125 Years Ago
April 1888: The Legislature made a step forward in jury reform by providing for legislative appointment of 42 jury commissioners to be allotted to counties around the state. The Law Journal editors approved of the concept but not the method. "Each appointment is made by the members of the majority from that locality, and they are not responsible individually or collectively, but they all struggle for their own political friends till one of them happens to win," they said.
100 Years Ago
April 1913: Efforts at jury reform championed by Gov. Woodrow Wilson, before he left office on March 1 to become president of the United States, fell flat in the Legislature. Due largely to pressure from county sheriffs who controlled the composition of juror pools, the reform bill was amended to make it subject to a referendum. "It was distinctly intended to block the wheels of reform in precisely those counties where reform was most needed," the Law Journal editors wrote.
75 Years Ago
April 28, 1938: Speaking at a lawyers gathering, American Bar Association President Arthur Vanderbilt of Newark — just back from England — praised the British press for its assiduous coverage of court proceedings, including the presentation of testimony in question-and-answer format. He conceded, though, that the high level of the reportage had a great deal to do with the high standing of the British courts.
50 Years Ago
April 25, 1963: American Bar Association President Sylvester Smith, of Newark, said in a speech that the administrative-agency process, especially at the federal level, was often slow, inexpert, overly formal and hampered by hearing examiners’ lack of independence. The irony, said Smith, was that "agencies were set up largely because courts were felt to operate too slowly, since they lacked expert knowledge. But today many courts work more speedily than the agencies whose decisions they review."
25 Years Ago
April 28, 1988: Chief Justice Robert Wilentz ordered that henceforth all state court judges appointed since 1987 would be rotated regularly through the Civil, Criminal and Family parts of their vicinages. The goal was "to offer each new judge the opportunity to extend his or her individual competencies in each area, while at the same time improving opportunities for service and career development within the Judiciary." Longer-serving judges would be encouraged to rotate but not compelled.