|Current partisan makeup||% Justices of Color|
|Justice||Party||Term Expiration||Mandatory Retirement|
|Barry T. Albin||D||Tenured||2022|
|Anne M. Patterson||R||Tenured||2029|
|Lee A. Solomon||R||Tenured||2024|
As the Court of last resort, the New Jersey Supreme Court is the final arbiter of your most cherished rights. Just in the past decade, the Court has delivered critical decisions for workers, people with disabilities, the LGBTQ+ community, education, and criminal justice reform.
Since 2021, the New Jersey Supreme Court expanded protections for working people across the state, the rights of people accused of crimes and of juveniles in the criminal justice system, and more.
Why New Jersey Matters
Last year, the New Jersey Supreme Court expanded protections for working people across the state. Most notably, the Court expanded workers’ rights and protected workers with disabilities under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. In the ruling, the Court sided with an employee claiming their employer failed to accommodate their disability without having to prove there was an “adverse employment action.” These adverse employment actions could range from termination of employment to demotion or suspension. This new precedent now proactively protects workers and establishes that the Law Against Discrimination requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for the worker’s disability. The New Jersey Supreme Court, following growing national trends, upheld workers’ ability to have medical marijuana prescriptions as a necessary treatment and be reimbursed by their employer. Without this ruling, workers would have been left to absorb all costs of an injury while working on the job. This decision was critical to holding employers accountable for harm done to their employees. In another decision, the Court protected employees facing harassment in the workplace. The Court found that employers using a racial slur twice against an employee constitutes a hostile environment — securing the right of a safe working environment for every person.
Moreover, the Court has expanded the rights of people accused of crimes in the criminal justice system. The Court recently ruled that police may not use vague descriptions as the sole basis for stopping a vehicle during an investigation. This is a critical step forward for the state and prohibits racial and gender profiling of individuals. In another case, the Court found that New Jersey residents have a right to privacy for their cell phone’s location data. Now, police must obtain a warrant prior to accessing the phone’s data. This is an especially important decision for individuals as smartphones have become much more common and an extension of our everyday lives.
The Court has issued many cases ruling on the rights of juveniles in the criminal justice system. Our justice system can be complicated for minors to navigate. In one case, the Court expanded protections for juveniles in custodial interrogation, which is when you are held by or questioned by police but not necessarily under arrest. If a person is not familiar with their rights, an interaction like this can be extremely intimidating and possibly feel like being arrested. The Court protected juveniles’ rights to privately consult with their parents before waiving their Miranda Rights. The Court also expanded the rights of young people in the criminal justice system when it comes to sentencing. Now, state judges in New Jersey are required to consider a defendant’s age and other youth-related factors before imposing a sentence of life without parole. However, the Court has also ruled against the rights of young people. In a recent case, the Court ruled that crimes committed as a juvenile can count towards the federal “Three Strikes Law,” a widely criticized law for its inefficacy to deter repeat offenders. Following your third crime or “third strike,” you will be sentenced to mandatory life without parole—meaning a defendant could be sentenced to spend the rest of their life in prison because of a crime they committed as a juvenile.
The New Jersey Supreme Court has also had a direct impact on education access and equity. In the 1990s, the Court found that New Jersey’s school funding was discriminatory toward low-income urban districts. But even though there have been numerous legislative attempts to fix this, in a 2011 decision the Court still found the lack of funding for low-income students is unconstitutional. This is a critical step forward for education equity among all students. At the same time, the Court allowed for the expansion of charter schools in Newark. Charter schools can exacerbate racial segregation and funding disparities between districts. The Court held that the state must analyze whether growing a charter school would make those disparities and segregation worse.
Lastly, two years prior to the United States Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, the New Jersey Supreme Court brought marriage equality to New Jersey. The Court found that same-sex marriage was encompassed in the state constitution’s equal protection clause. In handing down this decision, the Court ensured equal rights for same-sex couples following decades of discrimination. In a recent notice, the Court protected the privacy of trans and nonbinary individuals seeking gender-affirming name changes by eliminating requirements that name change applications and judgments be published.
In all these cases, the New Jersey Supreme Court upheld and expanded the rights of individuals. It’s critical the Court understands the impact of the law on every single person and will support equal justice for all, not just the wealthy and powerful.
Supreme Court Justices in New Jersey are selected by gubernatorial selection. This means the governor first nominates an individual to serve as a justice on the court, then that person must be confirmed by the New Jersey Senate. In the New Jersey Senate, there’s also an unspoken rule of senatorial courtesy for nominations. This means that state senators must give their approval of a nominee if that nominee is from the county or district that senator represents. If that person is confirmed by the Senate, they will serve an initial term of seven years. Following the initial seven-year term, the governor (usually) will re-appoint that justice and send their nomination back to the state Senate. If confirmed again, they become “tenured” on the court and can serve until they reach 70 years of age.
If an unexpected vacancy occurs, then that seat will be filled by gubernatorial appointment. The interim appointment will follow the same procedures as the typical selection method.
Current Justices on the Court
Stuart Rabner, Chief Justice
Chief Justice Stuart Rabner was nominated to the Supreme Court by Governor Jon S. Corzine and was sworn in as Chief Justice on June 29, 2007. He was re-nominated for tenure by Governor Chris Christie and was sworn in on June 20, 2014. Chief Justice Rabner will reach the state’s mandatory retirement age in 2030.
- After graduating from law school, Rabner clerked for U.S. District Court Judge Dickinson R. Debevoise of the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.
- In 1986, he joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey as an assistant U.S. attorney. Rabner went on to hold several other positions in the Office, including first assistant U.S. attorney, chief of the terrorism unit, and chief of the criminal division.
- In 2006, he was named chief counsel to Governor Corzine, where he remained until his nomination to the New Jersey Supreme Court.
- Rabner has served as Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court since 2007, having been re-nominated in 2014. He will reach the state’s mandatory retirement age in 2030.
Barry T. Albin, Justice
Justice Barry T. Albin was nominated to the Supreme Court in 2002 by Governor James E. McGreevey. In 2009, Governor Jon Corzine re-nominated Albin for a second term and tenure. His appointment was cleared by the Senate on June 26, 2009. Justice Albin will reach the state’s mandatory retirement age in 2022.
- Albin began his legal career as a deputy attorney general in the appellate section of the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice. From 1978 to 1982, he was an assistant prosecutor in Passaic and Middlesex counties.
- In 1982, he joined the law firm of Wilentz, Goldman and Spitzer, becoming partner in 1986.
- He also served as a member of the New Jersey Supreme Court Criminal Practice Committee from 1987 to 1992 and President of the New Jersey Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers from 1999 to 2000.
- Albin has served as a Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court since 2002, having been re-nominated in 2009. He will reach the state’s mandatory retirement age in 2022.
Anne M. Patterson, Justice
Justice Anne M. Patterson was nominated to the Supreme Court by Governor Chris Christie and sworn in on September 1, 2011. In June 2018, she was re-nominated for tenure by Governor Phil Murphy and sworn in on July 31, 2018. Justice Patterson will reach the state’s mandatory retirement age in 2029.
- Justice Patterson began her career as an associate at Riker, Danzig, Scherer, Hyland & Peretti. After six years, she left private practice to serve as a deputy attorney general and special assistant to New Jersey Attorney General Peter N. Peretti, Jr., handling civil ligation and criminal appeals on behalf of the state.
- In 1992, she returned to Riker Danzig as a partner, focusing her practice on products liability, intellectual property, and commercial litigation in state and federal trial and appellate courts.
- Patterson also previously served as Chair of the New Jersey State Bar Association Product Liability and Toxic Tort Section and on the New Jersey Supreme Court Committee on Character.
- Patterson has served as a Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court since 2011, having been re-nominated in 2018. She will reach the state’s mandatory retirement age in 2029.
Lee A. Solomon, Justice
Justice Lee A. Solomon was nominated to the Supreme Court by Governor Chris Christie and sworn in on June 19, 2014. In April 2021, he was re-nominated for tenure by Governor Phil Murphy. Justice Solomon will reach the state’s mandatory retirement age in 2024.
- Solomon began his career in public office, serving as a member of the Haddon Heights Borough Council and in the New Jersey General Assembly.
- Then, he served as Camden County prosecutor for five years and acting prosecutor for one year. In 2002, then-New Jersey U.S. Attorney Chris Christie appointed Solomon as deputy U.S. Attorney for the southern vicinages, District of New Jersey.
- Solomon first joined the bench in January 2006, after Acting Governor Richard Codey nominated him to the New Jersey Superior Court.
- He briefly left the bench to lead the Board of Public Utilities in the cabinet of Governor Christie from February 2010 to December 2011. He was then nominated by Governor Christie to return to the Superior Court, where he remained until his appointment to the Supreme Court in 2014.
- He will reach the state’s mandatory retirement age in 2024.
Fabiana Pierre-Louis, Justice
Justice Fabiana Pierre-Louis was nominated to the Supreme Court by Governor Phil Murphy and sworn in on September 1, 2020. Of historical note, she is the first Black woman to serve on the New Jersey Supreme Court. Justice Pierre-Louis will reach the state’s mandatory retirement age in 2027.
- After graduating from law school, Pierre-Louise clerked for New Jersey Supreme Court Justice John E. Wallace Jr.
- She then worked for nearly ten years as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, serving as the attorney-in-charge of the Trenton and Camden branches.
- At the time of her appointment, Pierre-Louis was a partner at the law firm of Montgomery McCracken, specializing in complex commercial litigation, white collar crime, and government investigations.
- Governor Murphy nominated her to the bench in June 2020, and she was sworn in on September 1, 2020. She will reach the state’s mandatory retirement age in 2027.
Harris v. City of Newark (2022) – Criminal Justice
The New Jersey Supreme Court concluded that police officers accused of misconduct do not have an automatic right to appeal an order denying qualified immunity, a rule that shields law enforcement from liability.
State v. Nyema; State v. Myers (2022) – Criminal Justice
The Court ruled that police officers cannot stop a vehicle during an investigation based solely on vague descriptions of a suspect’s race and gender.
State v. Samuel Ryan (2022) – Criminal Justice/Juvenile Justice
The New Jersey Supreme Court concluded that crimes committed by a defendant while under the age of eighteen count as predicate offenses under the “Three Strikes Law,” which sentences defendants to mandatory life without parole.
State v. James Comer; State v. James Zarate (2022) – Criminal Justice/Juvenile Justice
The Court ruled that due to the mitigating qualities of youth, juvenile offenders who have served two decades will be eligible for early parole.
Richter v. Oakland Board of Education (2021) – Workers
The Court ruled that New Jersey employees do not need to demonstrate an adverse employment action (i.e., transfer, suspension, termination, etc.) to establish that their employer failed to accommodate a disability under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.
Hager v. M&K Construction (2021) – Workers
The Court held that medical marijuana prescriptions are lawful under workers compensation, meaning employees can be reimbursed for these expenses.
Rios v. Meda Pharm., Inc. (2021) – Workers
The Court held that a supervisor twice directing a racial slur at a Latino employee was sufficient to constitute a hostile work environment claim under state anti-discrimination law.
C.R. v. M.T. (2021) – Criminal Justice
The Court clarified the required burden of proof in cases where alleged victims of sexual assault seek a restraining order under the Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act.
In re Renewal Application of TEAM Academy Charter School (2021) – Education
The Court upheld the state’s 2016 decision that allowed for charter school expansion in Newark, New Jersey. However, the Court also held that before granting applications for expansion, the state must first analyze whether proposed growth would exacerbate racial segregation.
State in the Interest of A.A. (2020) – Juvenile Justice
The Court heightened protection for youth in custodial interrogations and held that police must give children an opportunity to consult privately with their parents before asking them to waive their Miranda rights.
Name Change Applications Amendment (2020) – LGBTQ+ Rights
In a notice, the Court eliminated requirements that name change applications and judgments be published, citing the need to protect the privacy of trans and nonbinary people who seek gender-affirming name changes.
State v. Zuber & Comer (2017) – Juvenile Justice
The Court held that state trial judges must consider a juvenile defendant’s age and various youth-related factors before imposing a sentence of life without parole.
In re Declaratory Judgement Actions Filed by Various Municipalities (2017) – Housing
The Court held that towns are constitutionally obligated to account for the failure to provide housing for low- and middle-income individuals that occurred during a 16-year “gap period” when fair housing laws were not functioning.
Garden State Equality v. Dow (2013) – LGBTQ+ Rights
The Court held that New Jersey’s marriage laws violated the rights of same-sex couples to equal protection of the law under the state constitution, bringing marriage equality to New Jersey.
State v. Earls (2013) – Criminal Justice
The Court ruled that New Jersey residents have a constitutional right of privacy in their cellphone location data and that police must get a search warrant before accessing their cellphone data.
Abbott v. Burke (2011) – Education
In 1990 the Court held that New Jersey’s school funding law was unconstitutional as applied to several low-income urban districts. Since then, there have been a variety of remedial measures ordered, as well as new school funding laws passed by the legislature. In 2011, the Court found that the State was still violating the constitutional rights of low-income students due to a lack of funding.
How to Weigh In on Your Supreme Court
Even though you can’t vote specifically for your Supreme Court Justices, there are still two critical ways to advocate for the judges in your state. New Jersey selects their judges by gubernatorial selection and confirmation by the state Senate. Gubernatorial selection means that your governor has the power to choose who they want to sit on the court. Senate confirmation means that your state senator has a vote and voice on the nominee. Those are two critical offices for your state’s selection of judges. You can choose to lobby your governor and ask them to appoint a judge or justice with a demonstrated commitment to equal justice for all, not just the wealthy and powerful. Then, when the nomination comes before the Senate, your state senator will want to hear from you! You have the ability to lobby your state representatives too. Don’t be afraid to call your state senator. They have power, especially if the nominee is from your county. Senatorial consent is key for a nominee to move forward, so if you’re concerned about a nominee, it’s important your state senator hears from you!
The next election for governor is not until 2025 and your state senators are not up for election until 2023, but you should still make sure your voter information is up to date! This year is also the mid-term elections where federal offices like the House of Representatives and Senate are on the ballot. If you’re looking to vote in New Jersey this year, make sure you’ve checked this list:
- Check your voter registration status here. You can register to vote online here.
- New Jersey has open primaries, meaning you do not need to declare your party affiliation when registering to vote. Voters may only participate in one party’s primary per election. Your state primary election is on June 7, 2022. In order to vote in the primary election, your registration must be submitted no later than May 17, 2022.
- The 2022 general election is on November 8, 2022. Your last day to register to vote is October 18, 2022.
- Make sure you have a plan to vote!
- If you’re unable to go to the polls, New Jersey offers vote-by-mail ahead of time. In order for your mail ballot to count, it must be postmarked by 8:00pm on Election Day. Alternatively, you can drop your ballot off at a secure ballot drop box or with your county’s Board of Elections office. Learn more information about vote-by-mail here.
- New Jersey also offers early in-person voting that can be done at your county’s designated in-person voting locations during the specified hours. The windows to vote early in-person are June 3, 2022-June 5, 2022 for the Primary Election and October 29, 2022–November 5, 2022 for the General Election. Learn more about early in-person voting here.
- You can also vote in-person on Election Day at your polling place. Find where to vote here.