TRENTON – Sen. Paul A. Sarlo (D-Bergen, Essex and Passaic), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today thanked the committee for its work in reviewing scores of nominees that have been presented by the Corzine administration to fill judicial vacancies and openings on various government boards and agencies.
“Just a few weeks ago, there were 38 vacancies on the Superior Court bench,” Sen. Sarlo said. “Thanks to the hard work of judiciary committee members from both sides of the aisle, the endless behind-the-scenes work by committee staff and the thorough preparation by the candidates themselves, we will have whittled that number down to 17 after the nominees, who have since been confirmed by the full Senate, are sworn in.”
The 17 vacancies in the Superior Court bench are the fewest since the Whitman administration.
Sen. Sarlo noted the committee worked expeditiously and thoroughly to ensure the release of Associate Justice Barry Albin’s reappointment to a tenured position on the Supreme Court of New Jersey. Justice Albin was easily confirmed by the full Senate last week.
“Justice Albin met with committee members at their legislative district offices to answer any and all questions they had about his reappointment,” Sen. Sarlo said. “The committee then interviewed the justice at a public hearing on June 22, during which he was vigorously questioned for more than four hours. This is the essence of the advice and consent process. The committee members, whether they supported his renomination or opposed it, were able to vote on his renomination after a thorough discussion of the candidate’s qualifications and judicial philosophy.”
Since January, the Senate Judiciary Committee has confirmed 32 new Superior Court judges and 16 reappointments to the Superior Court bench; three workers’ compensation judges; five workers’ compensation re-appointments; five new administrative law judges, and five administrative law judge reappointments.
“For our justice system to work, we must make sure the courts at all levels are fully staffed with competent and qualified judges,” Sen. Sarlo said. “The diligent work of the members of the Judiciary Committee helps to make this a reality.”
Sen. Sarlo said many local tax boards have been struggling to deal with the increasing number of tax appeals that have been brought during the economic downturn because they’ve been short-handed.
“The governor’s office submitted 87 nominations to various county tax boards, and to date, 35 have been confirmed,” Sen. Sarlo said. “Another 23 are ready for review by the Judiciary Committee or are awaiting confirmation by the Senate. The rest are still in the process of getting sign-off from their senators or completing their questionnaires for the committee.
“These county tax boards review appeals filed by homeowners, who are seeking to have their assessments changed to reflect the softer real estate market. Not having the membership of the boards filled out only slows this process. It was taking longer for homeowners to have their appeals heard and have a chance to reduce their property tax bills. Now, with more members, the tax boards will be able to get through the backlog of tax appeals more quickly.”