This week’s New Jersey Law Journal contains the result of a Law Journal survey of practitioners who were asked to rate the judges of the Appellate Division in nine separate categories on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest ranking. [Disclosure: I was one of the practitioners who received the survey and who voted]. The Law Journal also produced an “overall score” for each of the 26 Appellate Division judges listed. The full survey results appear at 217 N.J.L.J. 989 (Sept. 29, 2014).
The overall winner was Judge Sabatino, who also ranked first in the Law Journal’s only previous survey regarding Appellate Division judges, a survey that was conducted in 2010. Judge Sabatino received ratings of over 9.0 in every category except one, and in that category, “Speed in issuing orders and opinions,” Judge Sabatino earned an 8.83, which was still a higher figure than any other judge received in that category. His overall rating was 9.10, the only judge whose overall rating exceeded 9.0. No other judge received a score of 9.0 or greater in more than one category, and only Judges Hoffman, Messano, Reisner, and St. John got a rating of 9.0 or greater in any category.
The next four judges after Judge Sabatino were Judges St. John, Messano, Fasciale, and Reisner. Judges Fisher, Carroll, Lihotz, Waugh, and Kennedy rounded out the top ten.
At a very general level, the most experienced judges often garnered the highest ratings. Indeed, Judges Reisner, Fisher, Messano, and Sabatino are among the most senior members of the Appellate Division. But there are certainly exceptions to every rule. For example, Judge Fasciale joined the Appellate Division in 2010, just four years ago, Judge St. John has served on the Appellate Division for three years, and Judge Carroll was elevated only last year.
The positive news is that, overall, the judges got good ratings. Most scores for most judges were in the 7.0-8.9 range, and very few scores in any category fell below 7.0. The one judge who did receive a number of lower scores, Judge Maven, was rated by fewer respondents than was any other judge, which raises the possibility of a sample size issue. Regardless, in the aggregate, the results of this survey confirm that attorneys and litigants can be satisfied that they will receive fair consideration from capable judges when in the Appellate Division.