Senate Bill Would Create Title of “Acting Justice”

By a 22-16 vote, the Senate passed and sent to the Assembly a bill known as S-2515.  An identical bill, A-3269, has been introduced in the Assembly.  That legislation would confer the title of “Acting Justice” on any judge of the Appellate Division who is assigned by the Chief Justice to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court and occupies that seat for at least six months.  From the language of the bill, it appears that the title would be earned only once the Appellate Division judge has reached the six-month mark as a temporary Supreme Court appointee, not on the day that the judge is appointed to fill a Supreme Court vacancy.  Judge Cuff, who currently occupies a vacant seat and has done so for more than six months, would immediately take on the title of Acting Justice.

The bill is also retroactive to 2010.  As a result, it presumably would give Judges Stern, Wefing, and Rodriguez, each of whom sat temporarily on the Supreme Court for more than six months, the title of Acting Justice, “for all historical purposes associated with [their] service” on the Supreme Court.

Other than to upgrade to a more ceremonious title the Appellate Division judges who fill Supreme Court vacancies on a long-term basis, it is not clear what the reason for this legislation is.  The Senate vote fell largely along party lines, and it may be that the vote in the Assembly will be similar.  Whether Governor Christie would sign the legislation remains to be seen.

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