In the News

Oct. 20, 2011

RE: ABOTA defends New Jersey judiciary;  
Gov. Christie’s personal attacks of judge are inappropriate, improper

To the editor:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie behaved irresponsibly in his recent press conference where he personally attacked a particular judge and maligned the entire judiciary of his state as well. As an attorney, he knows that this kind of contemptuous conduct is grossly improper in that it is prejudicial to the administration of justice (New Jersey Code of Professional Responsibility Rule 8.4(d)). Per their rules of conduct, judges are prohibited from responding and setting the record straight. Moreover, he has recklessly called the entire justice system into disrepute. Bullying tactics such as his jeopardize the ideal of a separate and independent judiciary, which is a cornerstone of American democracy. He, after all, has the power to appoint and reappoint judges subject to the consent of his legislature.

The American Board of Trial Advocates, a national organization dedicated to the preservation of our justice system, strongly repudiates Gov. Christie's harsh attack on Judge Linda Feinberg for performing the responsibilities imposed upon her by the New Jersey constitution. ABOTA especially condemns his sweeping general disparagement of his state's judiciary. Such bombastic rhetoric is deceptive, demagogic and a poor display of citizenship.

ABOTA takes no position on Judge Feinberg's ruling that the governor's pension and health benefit plan violated a constitutional prohibition against reducing judges' compensation during their terms. But ABOTA strongly supports and respects her for doing her job in a challenging case. As champions of the system, we have faith that the appellate courts will act wisely in either upholding or reversing her decision, without intimidation from the governor.

Gov. Christie’s election to the state's highest office doesn't obviate his duties to the justice system nor the respect he should accord the judiciary. If the state's chief executive doesn't respect judicial decisions and the rule of law, it is indeed a dark forecast to the citizens.

Our founding fathers created a democracy based upon separation of powers and respect for the rule of law so that the people's business could be conducted civilly and without intimidation. Leaders like the governor should be more circumspect in their remarks.


Harry T. Widmman

President, American Board of Trial Advocates
2001 Bryan St., Suite 3000
Dallas, TX  75201