With several of the state’s workers’ compensation judges awaiting tenure appointments from the Governor’s Office, and still more becoming eligible for tenure early next year, the New Jersey State Bar Association urged Gov. Chris Christie to act quickly on those who are qualified for reappointment.
A long delay in making reappointments hurts the reputation of the bench, jeopardizes its independence and could dissuade qualified lawyers from seeking appointment, according to State Bar Association President Kevin P. McCann.
“The New Jersey Workers’ Compensation System has rightfully acquired the reputation of being one of the best in the nation… It has come to the attention of the New Jersey State Bar Association that a number of qualified workers’ compensation judges have not had their names submitted for tenure appointment. We perceive this delay as having an unfortunate effect on the morale of the Workers’ Compensation Judiciary,” McCann wrote, in a letter approved by the association’s Board of Trustees at its meeting earlier this month.
The Governor’s Office did not respond to a request for comment.
The workers’ compensation court is an arm of the state’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development, rather than the state Judiciary. It has about 50 judges.
Under state statute workers’ compensation judges serve an initial appointment of three years, and are then eligible for governor-granted tenure. Judges who have been on the bench for three years can remain sitting until they are granted tenure or replaced.
Failing to grant tenure or replace a judge creates a series of problems, according to McCann’s letter. There should be a reasonable expectation that, if judges fulfill their obligation and are deemed qualified, they will be reappointed. Failure to do so will affect not only the independence of sitting judges but also the ability of the state to attract qualified applicants who, in most cases, must irretrievably leave successful law practices in order to serve, he noted.
On a related matter, the association’s General Council will hold a program about judicial vacancies and the appointment process regarding state courts when it meets in November at the New Jersey Law Center in New Brunswick.
In other action at the trustees meeting, the board approved a trio of new members benefits. The new benefits allow members to obtain discounts on services from Interstate Filing, LLC, which handles filings in all 50 states and many other countries; affordable website design packages from Amicus Creative Media; and discounts on New York Red Bulls and New York Jets tickets.
The trustees also supported:
  • The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Section’s plans to hold a symposium with LifeTies, meant to focus on the issue of homelessness in the GLBT youth community and the interrelationship of this problem to bullying and the juvenile justice system.
  • An investment policy meant to assist the board and its investment committee in communicating with and monitoring the various investment managers the association will engage to manage its assets.
  • Choosing Austin as the location of the 2014 Family Law Retreat. The event will be held at Four Seasons Hotel from March 26 through March 30.
The board will meet next in October at the Mid-Year Meeting in Las Vegas.