Last week, the New Jersey State Bar Association held its annual convention in Atlantic City. Over 2,500 judges, lawyers, law clerks and law students headed down the shore in search of CLEs and the scoop on emerging legal issues. In the following post, NJCJI’s Emily Kelchen reveals her insights on issues of interest to the civil justice community that were discussed at the convention.
More on the Judiciary
The “State of the Judiciary” addresses were not the only session that gave attendees insight into the inner workings of New Jersey’s court system.
After the State of the Judiciary Addresses wrapped up, the room emptied of all NJ Supreme Court Justices except Rabner, and a heated discussion of judicial independence began. Although the panel, which included Senator Tom Kean Jr. and Senator Nicholas P. Scutari, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, touched on judicial vacancies at both the state and federal level, it was abundantly clear that the focus was really on New Jersey.
The moderator flashed the following quote from Gov. Christie on the screen: “The least important person in the judicial nominating process is the governor. The governor begs and cajoles and pleads with petulant state senators who think they get to pick.” Judging from the audience’s reaction, there are still tensions in the legal community over Governor Christie’s decision to not reappoint Justice Wallace.
Rabner was apparently at the conference for quite a large chunk of it, since the day before his state of the judiciary address, he appeared on a panel with Justice Jaynee LaVecchia for an discussion of New Jersey Supreme Court practice and procedure moderated by David Kott of McCarter & English.
It was really interesting to hear how the justices work through cert petitions (Each justice is responsible for reviewing about 20 petitions at a time, and then presenting a summary and recommendation on whether to take the case to the other justices. If 3 justices want to hear a case, they take it up.), and what documents they actually have on hand to review when they are deciding a case (They have a copy of anything filed by the parties or amici, the appellate record, and if they want to see it, the trial transcript. LaVecchia noted that the court only has access to the exhibits that are given to it.).
Kott asked Rabner about the value of amicus briefs, and Rabner indicated that they are very valuable, particularly when they focus on broader themes and issues and leave the specific details of the case to the parties. LaVecchia echoed this sentiment, and said that the high court must consider the impact a case will have beyond the parties immediately before the court.
When writing any brief to the court, the justices recommended focusing on the issues and not criticizing the lower court’s decision. Rabner also said that he has the justices remove as many adverbs as possible from their decisions, so that is something to keep in mind.
Rabner saved his discussion of recent court rulemaking activity for his state of the judiciary address the next morning, but he did encourage the audience to get involved with a court committee, and to engage when rules are being made or revised.