To the Editor:
The New Jersey State Bar Association applauds the New Jersey Law Journal Editorial Board for its insightful and timely Sept. 16 editorial, "Saving Judicial Independence." The editorial cogently reminds us of "what is being cast away," which is a Supreme Court and judiciary whose independence has, until now, been respected and unquestioned. Simply put, our Supreme Court has long been regarded as one of the finest in the country.
We agree. There is no issue facing the legal profession today that matters more than fighting to maintain the integrity and independence of our judiciary. As a profession sworn to uphold the law, we cannot stand idly by. The State Bar has dedicated itself to raising awareness of the issue through the press, by educating our colleagues, and by talking with representatives from the executive and legislative branches of government to find a path forward that preserves our judiciary as one of the best in the nation.
Certainly, the State Bar's focus on this issue precedes my term as president. Yet, in recent months the threats to judicial independence have taken on greater urgency, and we have redoubled our efforts. Starting at our annual meeting in May, where the announced theme was judicial independence, I have been traveling throughout the state, meeting with local bar leaders and gathering their feedback so that the State Bar has a statewide and local perspective on all aspects of this challenge.
In addition, the State Bar is in the process of forming a Task Force on Judicial Independence, whose length of service will not be constrained by the tenure of my presidency. Rather, the task force will continue to play a vital role, have a voice, and enjoy the support of the state's largest lawyers' group as long as this issue threatens our judicial system. It will be a blue-ribbon panel of retired jurists, lawyers, academics and lay people. Its mission will be straightforward: to address unfair criticism of judges, to hold hearings to quantify the many ways the current political interference harms the legal system in New Jersey and the public it must serve, to devise initiatives to address the situation, and to enact strategies and education campaigns aimed at strengthening public understanding of the important role of our courts.
The judiciary is a co-equal branch of our tripartite democracy. Since the 1947 state constitution, which resulted in the wholesale remaking of our New Jersey courts, there has been no more paramount issue facing us as a profession than the current threats to weaken our judiciary by undermining its independence. We are and we will continue to fight to preserve its integrity and guarantee that our courts are a steadfast, independent and strong guardian for our citizens. Nothing less than the balance of our way of government is at stake.
Ralph J. Lamparello
N.J. State Bar Association