Following a Mercer County judge’s decision to deny South Brunswick’s demand for an affordable housing retrial, Senator Christopher “Kip” Bateman called for action to prevent future violations of the public’s trust in the judiciary.
Sen. Kip Bateman is calling for action to stop unethical judges and burdensome affordable housing mandates that put taxpayers and communities like South Brunswick at risk. (Pixabay)
“I am very disappointed in today’s ruling,” Senator Bateman said. “This should have been an easy call. Judge Wolfson ruled to mandate a drastic increase in affordable housing and then went on to work for a real estate developer shortly after. That seems like a pretty clear conflict of interest to me.”
“Judges should not be able to benefit financially from their own rulings. Even the appearance of impropriety has a devastating impact on the public’s trust in the bench. I hope that the New Jersey Supreme Court will take a hard look at what happened in South Brunswick and consider how we can hold judges to a higher ethical standard.”
In light of this case, Senator Bateman has introduced a resolution urging the New Jersey Supreme Court to consider possible changes or additions to the Rules of Professional Conduct for certain attorneys who served as judges prior to resuming the practice of law.
On Thursday, Mercer County Judge Douglas Hurd dismissed South Brunswick’s demands that the court vacate a ruling issued last year by Judge Wolfson to requiring the city zone for 1,500 new affordable housing units. South Brunswick argued that Wolfson could not have ruled impartially in that case, because he returned to the court room to represent a real estate developer who stood to benefit financially from that ruling, less than a year after he issued the ruling and only five days after he had retired from the bench.
Specifically, Senator Bateman’s resolution, SR-120, urges the New Jersey Supreme Court to provide more guidance on potential disqualification of former judges from certain representations for certain periods of time. The Senator has argued that judges should, at the very least, consider imposing a distancing period before former judges can appear back in court on matters that allow them to benefit from their own previous rulings.
A copy of the resolution can be found here.
Senator Bateman (R-16) represents multiple communities, including South Brunswick, that have fallen victim to burdensome and unnecessary affordable housing court rulings. He has for years sponsored comprehensive affordable housing reform legislation, including a bill addressing the “gap period” obligations that are now putting even more communities at risk Statewide. Repeated attempts to stand up for these towns by urging the Senate Majority to take up affordable housing reform have been blocked.
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