By: Carl A. Taylor III
My practice is located in Somerville. In fact, my office is located directly across from the Somerset County Courthouse. That means that it is my distinct pleasure to get to spend more time in the Somerset County Courthouse than any other. After law school, I even had the privilege of clerking for a Somerset County Superior Court Judge.
We are a county blessed with some of the hardest working judges in the state. Unfortunately, no matter how hard-working and talented our judges, one essential problem has remained: that there simply are not enough judges in Somerset County – or the entire vicinage (consisting of Hunterdon and Warren County as well) as a whole.
I am not alone in this view, nor should I be. The population of Somerset County has expanded exponentially over the years, including an 8.7% population increase from 2000-2010. Meanwhile, the number of judges sitting in our County Superior Court has largely been stagnant. The lack of judges was widely discussed when I clerked for the Courthouse, and in the years since nothing has changed. This isn’t fair to the judges nor the litigants, many of whom are seeking a divorce faster than the Court can hear trials.
I understand that our nation and our state are dealing with a terrible economy. Now, anyone who personally knows me can vouch that I am fiscally conservative; but even I believe that what is more important than the amount of money spent, is how that money is allocated.
I do not possess a degree in economics. But I do know that sometimes spending money can in the long run be a means of ultimately spending less. I know that spending $2,000 to replace old pipes in my basement may ultimately save me tens of thousands of dollars in water damage. The same concept applies here, where a judicial backlog must spill out and create a number of untold issues that likely would not otherwise occur.
Who is more important to the judicial system than the judges? And if that statement is true–as I believe it is—then how could an inadequate amount of judges in this or any other vicinage be rationalized as acceptable?
I doubt many would debate that there is nothing more important to the judicial system than judges. If you lack a sufficient amount of judges, then the wheels of justice must surely grind slower than necessary.
Of course hiring more judges costs more money and there would have to be more staff as well to meet an increase in judges.
But how much money is lost, in ways both seen and unforeseen, when there are not enough judges?
When it takes more than a year to get divorced, how could that not increase the percentage of cases involving domestic violence or plenary hearings? Or the loss of employment (and therefore state and local taxes) when the seemingly endless divorce process finally breaks down a litigant? What kind of affect is this having on the children of litigants, on DYFS, or on other state or local programs.
There are no easy answers, but it would appear that few resources are more important to the stability of our state and county than having a sufficient amount of judges. I could think of any number of things that could and should be cut if it would mean being able to put at least 2-4 more judges on the bench in Somerset county. Adding another judge or two in Hunterdon and Warren County would also be ideal.
Perhaps what bothers me most, is that this issue appears to affect our vicinage more than any other in the State.
As a Somerville New Jersey Divorce attorney, of course this issue is close to my heart. I have to see my clients and their families dealing with this firsthand.
But even if you think this issue doesn’t touch upon your life, in some unforeseen way it probably does.
With no end in site.
And it’s simply not right.
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