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Political bickering leads to backlog in New Jersey courts

A shortage of judges in counties across the Garden State is causing a major backlog in the courts.

(Comstock, ThinkStock)

In response, Assemblyman Joseph Lagana (D-38) is introducing a measure that would make judges and justices who are retired and collecting a pension eligible for recall duties until they’re 85 years old.

“There is a Supreme Court guideline that permits judges to be recalled after they’ve retired, but this legislation would codify the guideline and extend the age limit from 80 to 85,” Laganga said.

So, what’s causing the shortage?

“What’s happening is judges are retiring and the slots just aren’t being filled when they are supposed to be filled,” he said. “You know a lot of it is unfortunately politics and there have not been agreements between the legislature and the governor on who’s going to actually fill these spots. Because of politics over the past few years, we’ve really seen an assault on the courts, on the independence of the courts and now we don’t even have enough judges to hear cases.”

The result, Lagana said, is assignment judges in some counties are only scheduling cases that are considered emergencies, like domestic violence – but putting all matrimonial and auto accident cases on hold, sometimes for more than a year.

He noted the issue of recalling judges for assignment was recently upheld as constitutional.

“The only thing that will solve the problem is the legislature and the governor’s office making more appointments and judges being confirmed,” Laganga said. “The current situation is difficult because it causes stress on our residents and unfortunately that’s who’s really suffering, is our residents.”

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