Buono Seeks Constitutional Amendment To Make Public Defender An Independent Entity

Proposed amendment responds to Governor’s recent attack on the office

TRENTON — Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex) today unveiled a resolution that would make the office of the Public Defender an independent entity, removing it from the executive branch.

The resolution comes on the heels of a public battle between the Governor Christie and New Jersey Public Defender Yvonne Smith Segars over the Governor’s efforts to force her resignation.

“The independence of the Office of the Public Defender is absolutely critical to its ability to fulfill its responsibilities to the people of New Jersey,” said Buono. “We’ve already seen this Governor politicize our Supreme Court. For the sake of our democracy, we cannot allow this pattern to continue.”

Currently, the Public Defender is appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate. Buono’s proposal, modeled on the system currently in effect in Connecticut, would make the office an independent entity in but not of the Judiciary.

Buono, previously employed by the Office of the Public Defender as a staff attorney, explained that the move would isolate the office from undue political influence.

“Removing the office from the jurisdiction of the executive branch will prevent this dangerous political meddling in our justice system from continuing,” said Buono. ‘It will help preserve the core tenants of our democracy that have fallen under the Governor’s attacks.”