SENATE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION No. 148

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

214th LEGISLATURE

INTRODUCED MARCH 10, 2011

 


 

Sponsored by:

Senator† BARBARA BUONO

District 18 (Middlesex)

Senator† NICHOLAS P. SCUTARI

District 22 (Middlesex, Somerset and Union)

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

†††† Provides for appointment of the Public Defender by a new Public Defender Services Commission.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

†††† As introduced.

††


A Concurrent Resolution proposing to amend Article VI of the Constitution of the State of New Jersey by adding a new section IX thereto.

 

†††† Be It Resolved by the Senate of the State of New Jersey (the General Assembly concurring):

 

†††† 1.††† The following proposed amendment to the Constitution of the State of New Jersey is hereby agreed to:

 

PROPOSED AMENDMENT

 

†††† Amend Article VI by adding a new section IX to read as follows:

†††† IX.† (a) The Public Defender shall be appointed by the Public Defender Services Commission established by this section and shall be an independent entity in but not of the Judiciary.† The Public Defender shall be appointed for a term of five years and until the appointment and qualification of his successor and shall be removable from office by the commission for cause, upon notice and an opportunity to be heard.

†††† (b †† The Public Defender shall provide for the legal representation of any indigent defendant who is formally charged with the commission of an indictable offense and shall have such other duties as prescribed by law.†

†††† (c)†† The Public Defender Services Commission shall consist of seven members as follows: the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, or a designee of the Chief Justice who may be a retired judge with experience in the Criminal Division of the Superior Court; the Attorney General, or his designee; the President of the New Jersey State Bar Association, or his designee; one public member appointed by the President of the Senate; one public member appointed by the Speaker of the General Assembly; one public member appointed by the minority leader of the Senate; and one public member appointed by the minority leader of the General Assembly.

†††† Public members shall serve for a term of three years from their date of appointment and until their successors are appointed and qualified.† Any vacancy in the membership of the commission shall be filled by appointment in the same manner as the original appointment.† Vacancies resulting from causes other than by expiration of term shall be filled for the unexpired term only.

†††† The commission shall organize as soon as possible after the appointment of its members.† The members of the commission shall elect one of the members to serve as chair.††

†††† The members of the commission shall serve without compensation, but shall be eligible for reimbursement for necessary and reasonable expenses incurred in the performance of their official duties within the limits of funds appropriated or otherwise made available to the commission for its purposes.

†††† (d)†† Compensation and duties of the Public Defender shall be provided by law.

 

†††† 2.††† When this proposed amendment to the Constitution is finally agreed to pursuant to Article IX, paragraph 1 of the Constitution, it shall be submitted to the people at the next general election occurring more than three months after the final agreement and shall be published at least once in at least one newspaper of each county designated by the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the General Assembly and the Secretary of State, not less than three months prior to the general election.

 

†††† 3.††† This proposed amendment to the Constitution shall be submitted to the people at that election in the following manner and form:

†††† There shall be printed on each official ballot to be used at the general election, the following:

†††† a.†††† In every municipality in which voting machines are not used, a legend which shall immediately precede the question as follows:

†††† If you favor the proposition printed below make a cross (X), plus (+), or check (a) in the square opposite the word "Yes." If you are opposed thereto make a cross (X), plus (+) or check (a) in the square opposite the word "No."

†††† b.††† In every municipality the following question:


 

 

 

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT TO REQUIRE THE PUBLIC DEFENDER TO BE APPOINTED BY A PUBLIC DEFENDER SERVICES COMMISSION

 

YES

Shall the amendment to Article VI of the New Jersey Constitution, agreed to by the Legislature, providing that the Public Defender would be appointed by the Public Defender Services Commission instead of by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate, be approved?

 

 

INTERPRETIVE STATEMENT

 

NO

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This constitutional amendment requires the Public Defender to be appointed by a Public Defender Services Commission.† The amendment creates the commission and specifies its members and their terms of office.† It also locates the Public Defender within the courts but gives it independent status.

The Public Defender currently is required by law to provide legal services for poor people charged with crimes.† This constitutional amendment does not change the Public Defenderís duties.

Currently, the Public Defender is appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate.† This amendment removes the Governor and the Senate from the appointment process.†

The Public Defender Services Commission created by the amendments consists of seven members.† These members include the Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court, the Attorney General, and the president of the New Jersey State Bar Association, or people designated by them.† The members also include four people appointed by leaders of the Senate and General Assembly.

 

 

STATEMENT

 

†††† This proposed constitutional amendment would amend Article VI, Judicial, to provide that the Public Defender would be appointed by a Public Defender Services Commission established by the amendment.† Under current law, set out in N.J.S.A.2A:158A-1 et al., the Public Defender is appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate.

†††† †The constitutional amendment provides that the Public Defender would be appointed for a term of five years and until the appointment and qualification of his successor and be removable from office by the commission for cause, upon notice and an opportunity to be heard. The Public Defender would be an independent entity in but not of the Judiciary.

†††† The duties of the Public Defender would be unchanged.† The Public Defender would continue to provide for the legal representation of any indigent defendant who is formally charged with the commission of an indictable offense and would have such other duties as prescribed by law.†

†††† The Public Defender Services Commission would consist of seven members: the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, or a designee of the Chief Justice who may be a retired judge with experience in the Criminal Division of the Superior Court; the Attorney General, or his designee; the President of the New Jersey State Bar Association, or his designee; one public member appointed by the President of the Senate; one public member appointed by the Speaker of the General Assembly; one public member appointed by the minority leader of the Senate; and one public member appointed by the minority leader of the General Assembly.

†††† Public members would serve for a term of three years from their date of appointment and until their successors are appointed and qualified.† The members of the commission would elect one of the members to serve as chair.††

†††† The commission members would serve without compensation but be eligible for reimbursement for expenses within the limits of funds appropriated or otherwise made available to it.