The Sound and The Fury in New Jersey
September 7, 2012
Lewis Stein, former Chairman of the New Jersey State Bar Association’s Committee on Judicial and Prosecutorial Appointments and a member in good standing of the state’s legal aristocracy, unleashed a tirade on Governor Chris Christie the other day. Mr. Stein, who, by his own account, has “spent most of [his] professional life advocating for the rule of law to be administered by the most competent judiciary possible” has seen his good work “trashed for political purposes by the governor” – an “insidious and even dangerous aspect of his job performance” that has resulted in a “lasting debasement of respect for the rule of law.”
What offense against the judiciary – nay, against public decency – did Governor Christie commit? Well, “shortly after taking office, Christie announced he would not reappoint a Supreme Court justice.” One Supreme Court justice? Yep, that’s it.
But don’t think for a minute that Mr. Stein’s ire was raised over the fate of a single judge. No. Christie’s real offense was breaking down the door to the elite little clubhouse of New Jersey’s legal poo-bahs who rule the state’s courts. You see, in 65 years, according to the former Chairman of the New Jersey State Bar Association’s Committee on Judicial and Prosecutorial Appointments, the only way a judge ever lost his seat was “as a result of the judgment of the New Jersey State Bar Association and its judicial evaluation’s procedures.”
In other words, only members of the club are allowed to cast out a judge – not a mere governor. Christie’s only role in the process, according to Mr. Stein, is to dutifully rubber-stamp the choices of self-appointed, unaccountable legal insiders – like himself – with no questions asked, please.
Mr. Stein sourly admits that there is no provision in the New Jersey Constitution requiring the governor to bow to the will of a gang of unelected lawyers – a “notable weakness” in his view. But still! It was tradition! Well, as Condi Rice’s invitation to join Augusta National remind us … some traditions are made to be broken.
Mr. Stein calls Christie’s actions “intolerable” … but what’s really intolerable – or at least insufferable – is the insistence of people like the former Chairman of the New Jersey Bar Association’s Committee on Judicial and Prosecutorial Appointments that the courts are the private preserve of elite lawyers and other Bar cronies.