State v. Broom-Smith, 201 N.J. 229 (2010)

Moreover, the cross-assignment order, which may provide for more than one substitute judge, should prescribe the sequence to which substitute judges are to be resorted. That, in turn, will eliminate any question of judge shopping. Practically speaking, prescribing the sequence will militate against assigning every municipal court judge in a vicinage as a substitute for every other judge because of the burden that would cast on the first judges in the sequence.

It goes without saying that when a warrant applicant applies to a substitute judge, a record should be made of the reason the application is not being presented to the territorially-appropriate court. Finally, the cross-assignment order should be renewed annually to account for changes in judicial appointments.

Part III. Warrants

State v. Broom-Smith, 201 N.J. 229 (2010)

Nevertheless, in the exercise of our supervisory authority over the courts, we have determined that, going forward, some order and uniformity must be imposed on the cross-assignment procedure. First, we reiterate that the rule and the statute are co-extensive and authorize cross-assignment only in cases of disqualification or “inability” to hear a case. That, generally, will require the officers seeking the warrant to attempt to contact the judge of the territorially-appropriate court. It will be that judge's disqualification or inability to hear the case that will trigger the cross-assignment order. Obviously, if the judge is absent or otherwise incapacitated (for example, away on vacation or hospitalized), the officers need not go first to the judge's chambers, office or home. In that case, the “inability” standard is plainly satisfied. However, the fact that the judge is busy with other matters or home for lunch should not automatically trigger cross-assignment. Rather, the officers should wait a reasonable period unless, for some reason, the matter is emergent and time is of the essence.

Further, the fact that a particular municipal court is not “in session,” that is, holding court, does not necessarily mean that the judge is “unable” to hear a warrant application. It may be that in furtherance of his private practice, the judge is far from his vicinage. In that case, he may, in fact, be “unable” to hear the matter, especially if there are time constraints involved. But it does not follow that a judge who is sitting in his local law office is “unable” to entertain a warrant application, especially since that is part and parcel of his judicial responsibilities.

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