“The judiciary, on the contrary, has no influence over either the sword or the purse; no direction either of the strength or of the wealth of the society; and can take no active resolution whatever. It may truly be said to have neither FORCE nor WILL, but merely judgment; and must ultimately depend upon the aid of the executive arm even for the efficacy of its judgments.” -Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 78
Hamilton may be the hottest ticket on Broadway, but his views on the judiciary do not hold up as well today as they did in the 1780s. The modern judiciary is a powerful branch that should be given as much attention as the legislature and the executive.
At the New Jersey Civil Justice Institute, we understand that we will not achieve our goal of improving our state’s legal climate if we do not engage with the judiciary. That is one of the reasons why NJCJI systematically reviews every case taken up by the state’s Appellate Division courts and the New Jersey Supreme Court to determine what impact each case might have on the state’s civil justice system, and regularly engages in the court’s rulemaking process.
The Critical Role of Amicus Briefs
At our spring luncheon a couple of years ago, NJ Chief Justice Rabner encouraged audience members to get involved with the court by serving on judicial committees, volunteering for pro bono programs, and entering cases as amici. In response to an audience question, Rabner elaborated on his thoughts on amicus curiae briefs, stating the court found them “extremely helpful” because they focus on the broader impact of the issue at hand rather than the narrow interests of the parties in the case.
Amicus curiae is a Latin phrase literally translated as “friend of the court.” It is the name for a brief filed with the court by someone who is not a party to the case. To date, NJCJI has assisted with or participated in more than a dozen cases at the appellate and supreme court levels, focusing on broader civil justice implications that the parties cannot fully brief.
Participating in Judicial Rulemaking
NJCJI also took to heart Rabner’s advice that we get involved with the court’s judicial committees. For example, over the past year, NJCJI has provided comments to the court as it has considered whether to modify the rules governing expert testimony, the appeal of class certification decisions, and fee-shifting and bad faith claims in auto insurance cases. Changes to the rules governing any one of these topics would have just as big of impact as a New Jersey Supreme Court opinion on the topic, yet we are all guilty of paying far more attention to the decisions the court hands down than to the administration of the system as a whole.
In an effort to spread awareness about the important role administrative factors play in shaping our legal system, NJCJI is making this topic the subject of our annual Winter Policy Forum on March 15. This year’s event will feature a keynote address from Judge Glenn A. Grant, J.A.D., the Acting Administrative Director of New Jersey Courts.
NJCJI members, lawmakers and government officials, business leaders, and lawyers are invited to register to attend this event, which is being held on Tuesday, March 15, from Noon-1:30 PM, at the Trenton Country Club.