LAW & PUBLIC SAFETY

Retired Supreme Court Justice Disagrees With Age Limit

As confirmation hearings in the Senate for Supreme Court nominees Phillip Kwon and Bruce Harris began Thursday, former Supreme Court Justice Virginia Long weighed in on the process with NJToday Managing Editor Mike Schneider. Long was forced to retire when she turned 70 and her seat is one of those to be filled. She said she was proud of all she did as a member of the Supreme Court and regrets not being able to remain on the bench.

Long said the confirmation process can be grueling, though she found her renomination process to be more difficult than her original confirmation because committee members had seven years of her decisions to reflect on. She said politics didn’t play a part in Supreme Court rulings, which is how it should be.

“The independence of the judiciary from politics is probably the most important thing that you can say about it. Every person — poor, rich, black, white, native born, foreign born — is the same before the court. The court calls them as they see them. Nobody gets special treatment because of political connection or money,” she said. “This is the last opportunity for an ordinary citizen to advance his case for justice and against tyranny.”

Long said she didn’t have a problem with members of the committee asking Kwon about his mother’s business and a settlement she made with federal prosecutors after making large cash deposits without proper notification. “I think that it’s appropriate for the committee to look at everything,” she said. “This is the Supreme Court. This is the last chance our fellow citizens have for vindication of their rights. I don’t have any problem with the committee looking into every aspect of a nominee.”

Long said she was proud of every moment she spent as a Supreme Court justice and wished the mandatory retirement age didn’t exist. “I really don’t think an age 70 retirement makes much sense anymore, but I leave that to the governor and legislature to determine whether or not we should have a constitutional amendment,” she said.

When asked if she believed the mandatory retirement age allowed officials to craft the court how they wished, Long said it would be difficult to do that because the Supreme Court sticks with the decisions made previously unless there are outside forces in the world that would change the outcome of a case. “Otherwise there would be no uniformity or predictability in the law,” she said.

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