A couple of e-mailers wanted to know exactly why I have a low opinion, in general, of the Superior Court bench in Somerville.
(These are the folks who’ve figured out that I rarely just “mouth off” about local topics, but rather have a number of up-close-and-personal observations about how our local government works!)
To me, the whole problem of the Somerville courts (these would be our state courts that are based in the county seat of Somerville) is that they have become too far removed from the ordinary Somerset county residents.
There was a time, in the county, when the downtown judges were generally followed by public, and to some extent, judged by them. We didn’t have these people who just show up because they are the friend of some politician, and need (or want) a state job. There were actually lawyers in the county that many people knew, and a certain “vetting process” going on along the years, as to who had the interests of the community at heart, and who was not to be trusted with state power!!
Times change, a flood of people move in (so no one pays attention to the community much less understands it.) And suddenly you have these, well, clowns, or idiots, dressed up in judicial robes. Everyone kissing their asses like they actually are someone other than a buddy of the limousine driver of the governor. And happen to have a law degree.
Now, who is going to break that little conspiracy? The “emperor has no clothes!” “No brains above the robes!!!”
Is it going to be the press? No. They report what happened in the court. And as long as something reasonable-sounding happened, they don’t have much to say about it.
Is it going to be the collection of lawyers that make their money off the court system? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. Heaven forbid, no! The judge is basically their boss, in the sense that a pissed off judge with little ethics (and little concern for what is right) will simply rule against a lawyer he doesn’t like. And pretty soon, that lawyer is out of business in that jurisdiction. Or at least, is not living as high.
And it won’t be the people who come out on the losing side of a case. They just write off the judicial system in New Jersey as a big scam—not worth trusting. Or all they know is that they lost, and NOT that they may have gotten screwed, too.
Where you are going to get your insight from, is from a lawyer:
a) who doesn’t practice in the system,
b) has seen or is familiar with cases in the system, and
c) also knows where to go and look up the real law!!!
Even though I was born in and raised around Somerville, I would never want to practice there. The building looks very pretty, and it probably is a very nice life if you are a connected lawyer. But the “work product”, the actual results of justice as it is supposed to be administered by that branch of government, don’t match the fact that we are a wealthy, progressive section of a more liberal state, with a strong civil rights tradition. One that goes back to the 1600’s, actually.
That Superior Court in Somerville is truly weak on the ordinary rights of everyday Somerset County people. It does not protect the people.
I would like to see the value of that court house debated, once again, among the local Somerset County citizenry—like it used to be in the 1950’s, ’60’s, and ’70’s.
In the tradition of the 1947 Constitution and Vanderbilt reforms, the New Jersey court system is meant to deliver.
Does it deliver??
And not just to the judges, business interests and connected lawyers . . .