As discussed here, Justice LaVecchia announced on March 8 that she intended to retire from the Supreme Court as of August 31 of this year. In the ordinary course, that would have allowed her successor to be nominated and confirmed in time for the start of the 2021-22 Court Term on September 1, 2021.
On March 15, Governor Murphy nominated Rachel Wainer Apter to fill Justice LaVecchia’s seat. For reasons that are not clear, the Senate has not held a confirmation hearing to date, and it appears that no such hearing will be held until after Election Day.
As a result, Chief Justice Rabner issued the following statement yesterday:
“Earlier this year, Justice Jaynee LaVecchia announced that she would retire from the Supreme Court after twenty-one years of service at the end of the Court’s term. The Governor nominated a successor before the upcoming term, which starts on September 1, 2021.
Recent public statements have confirmed that confirmation hearings will not be held until after Election Day. By around that time, the Supreme Court will have heard oral argument in about forty percent of the cases for the 2021-22 term.
To best serve the public, the Court should have a full complement of Justices this fall to hear and decide cases and to address the heavy volume of petitions for certification, motions, disciplinary and character matters, and other issues that require timely resolution. Under the circumstances, I recently asked Justice LaVecchia if she would consider delaying her retirement for a few months. I am very grateful that she graciously agreed to do so and is willing to remain on the Court until no later than the end of this calendar year.”
Justice LaVecchia’s gracious willingness to defer her retirement for up to four months will, as the Chief Justice said, allow the Court to function more smoothly and effectively. Those who have, or will have, cases before the Court appreciate her decision.