The following excerpt is adapted from the speech delivered by Judge Grant to the Assembly Budget Committee.
Every day, the Judiciary strives to fulfill our constitutional obligations to resolve disputes fairly and justly, to preserve the rule of law, and to protect the rights and liberties of the people of our state. This abiding commitment to the rule of law through our court system is one of the foundations of America’s democracy. It is the cooperation and support from the executive and legislative branches that help us to carry out these mandates.
We have been able to build upon this bedrock of our democratic freedoms through the dedication and hard work of the judges and staff of the Judiciary. It is because of the talented men and women who comprise our membership that we have been able to adhere to our core mission and so ably serve the people and businesses of this state.
We have a responsibility to manage our resources with the same care that our citizens manage their personal finances, and we take that duty very seriously.
Our productivity remains high despite our smaller operation and staffing challenges. Like last year, we resolved more than 7 million cases in our various courts – the Supreme Court, the Appellate and Trial Division of our Superior Court, the Tax Court and our Municipal Courts.
Such accomplishments are only possible because of the outstanding leadership and talent of the personnel of the Judiciary.
Over the past several years, the work of our courts has evolved in an effort to meet the changing needs of our state and society. We are being asked to address some of society’s most difficult issues, including drug abuse, foreclosure, domestic violence and juvenile offenders.
This move represents a paradigm shift in how our courts have historically operated. Several initiatives reflect this shift: drug courts, the Guardianship Monitoring Program and Foreclosure Mediation and the Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative and mental health.
We have also continued our focus in the Judiciary on ways to better educate and inform the public about the work of the courts and the many services available to them. We have emphasized increasing accessibility to the public, meeting the unique needs of our court users and developing even greater appreciation and understanding of the growing diversity in our state.
The Judiciary has a long history of promoting access and equality through the application of our core values of independence, integrity, fairness and quality service. For instance, the Supreme Court Committee on Minority Concerns, the Supreme Court Committee on Women in the Courts, the Judicial Advisory Committee on ADA Compliance, to name just a few, have addressed critical concerns of our court users for many years. Additionally, the Judiciary has a department devoted entirely too interpreting services.
Recently, Chief Justice Rabner established a Supreme Court Committee on Access and Fairness to guide the Judiciary in adapting to current and future demands on the courts. The committee focuses on how to better administer justice in the face of challenges such as the continued increase in the number of self-represented litigants, the growing multicultural population in New Jersey, the need for expanding language services, and the economic pressures on litigants and the courts.
Access and fairness are enhanced when the public understands how the court system functions and the role of courts and the legal system in a democratic society.
To that end, the Judiciary, working in partnership with the State Bar Association, is operating a program called "Benchmarks." The program trains attorneys and judges to make presentations to the community about the federal and state constitutions, our form of government, and the importance of the rule of law in a democracy
The New Jersey Court system has served as a model for courts around the country. This legacy of achievement and distinction continues because of the strong leadership of Chief Justice Rabner and the other members of our Supreme Court.
Today, the Judiciary, like the rest of government, is confronted with several challenges, but we are confident in our ability to navigate this new landscape based upon the talent and strengths of our workforce.
Our history of success is also made possible because of the support and strong collaborative partnerships with the other two branches of government. Our efforts to assist those confronting substance abuse, juvenile delinquency, foreclosure, guardianship and other issues would not be achievable without our joint efforts.
We continually strive to educate the public on the work of the Judiciary, to provide important information to court users and to increase the transparency of our operation. We are committed to becoming even more efficient in the face of ongoing fiscal challenges, as we continue to effectively resolve disputes, protect rights and liberties and ensure justice for all.