We are a law firm dedicated to the practice of Family Law. This blog was recently started and designed to inform the public of developments in Family Law, more particularly the area of matrimonial law. Lawyers are officers of the Court, and we serve what I have always viewed as an important function in the administration of justice. We take seriously the concept that while acting as the agents of our clients we are functioning as an integral part in the governance of justice. Being an officer of the court means that we act as quasi-judicial officers within the judicial system and, as such, lawyers have a role in government.
A basic American Civics course teaches us that there are three branches of government: Legislative, Executive and Judicial. That very same civics course teaches that the Legislative branch makes the law, the Executive branch executes the law and the Judicial branch interprets and enforces the law. In the American Constitutional system the government is accountable to the people. The faith of the public in our government branches is fundamental to our democracy and the functioning of each of its branches. When any part of the government loses the public trust it does violence not only to that institution but to the ability of government to function in general. The social contract between government and the people is based on faith — faith that those who govern do so selflessly and with honor, recognizing that they have undertaken a duty to the public and hold that duty above personal goals and self promotion.
Unfortunately many people today view those who govern as no more then the mouthpieces of a political party or, worse yet, simply advocates of their own reelection. We long for statesmen of the caliber of Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt or Ronald Reagan, or such other leader who can inspire and give the citizenry confidence that while our leaders may be fallible, perhaps their failures or weaknesses may be forgiven because their intentions were honorable. Our founding fathers envisioned that those who govern would for a time forego their private endeavors to devote their efforts to the public good, and then return to their private worlds. Today, it may seem that our government officials are not of that ilk, and that we are governed more by politicians rather than leaders. Unfortunately, national elected officials too often seem to be professional candidates always looking to their own or their parties’ next election and thus such elected officials are unable to look beyond the paradigm of their party. The public rancor that each party and each party candidate expresses for the other is palpable. The result: the public may lose trust in the federal government’s Executive and Legislative branches.
Unfortunately that loss of trust in our Federal government’s politicians and institutions may infest the attitude of the public towards government in general, including the State judicial system. Loss of confidence and respect for government has a huge impact on the administration of justice, and Matrimonial Law has no immunity from the infection. I find that litigants today may hold judges in the same regard that they did even just a decade ago. In viewing government in general as suspect, I find that litigants are less likely to view the suggestions and determinations of a state Judge as worthy of their consideration or even their obedience. The civil system of justice relies on the willingness of the litigants to accept and comply with the directives of the Judge to operate optimally. If the competency, impartiality and fairness of the Judiciary falls into question then the ability of the courts to serve as effective resolvers of disputes is compromised. The system suffers. Citizens suffer as their disputes languish longer in the courts and the cost of litigation increases as a judge’s actions fall to challenge and litigants refuse to comply with lawful orders.
Fortunately in New Jersey we have a Chief Executive who has recently been re-elected by a wide margin, indicating the public’s confidence and support of the Executive Branch of our state government. Our State Legislature has an impressive record of bipartisanship. Nonetheless, our judges are sometimes painted with the broad bush with which many politicians in the national news media and federal government are more deservedly painted. In truth, New Jersey has one of the finest judiciaries in the country. Our judicial appointment process is rigorous. The overall quality of our judges is excellent. These men and women are not political – they are appointed not elected. Most have given up more lucrative private practice in order to serve as a judge. They are bright, fair and motivated by a strong desire to be of service.
In 1971 our Divorce Reform Law was enacted. Since that time our State courts have developed complex rules regarding Matrimonial Law through case law developed by the judiciary and statutes enacted by our elected legislature. New Jersey statutes and decisional law have been adopted by many other states and even other countries. The lawyers and judges of this state have worked together to develop the law and have led the way in developing alternative dispute resolution mechanisms in an effort to save the public time and money and to conserve judicial resources.
I am often asked the question: “Will my case be fairly considered by the Judge?”. I am always proud to answer that we have one of the best benches in the country and that any litigant is lucky to live in New Jersey where his or her dispute will be fairly considered.