Politics

New Jersey Lawmakers Want Their AG Selected Like Most Others: By the Voters

March 11, 2014
 

New Jersey’s attorney general fought the legalization of same-sex marriage even though poll after poll showed voters supported it.

And while more than one survey showed voters wanted more stringent gun laws, the attorney general refused to defend measures already in place.

Those two issues have one element in common: If the attorney general had argued in favor of same-sex marriage or defended the state’s tough gun measures, he would have complicated Gov. Chris Christie’s potential path to the Republican presidential nomination.

Some now say the time has come to make New Jersey’s top law enforcement official more responsive to the public and less beholden to the governor, and one lawmaker has introduced a measure to do just that. The issue has taken on added urgency with the apparent decision by the Attorney General’s Office to stay out of the the George Washington Bridge investigation, much to the annoyance of veteran prosecutors in the office.

State Sen. Peter Barnes (D-Middlesex) recently introduced a resolution (SCR71) that would ask voters to amend the state Constitution to make New Jersey’s attorney general an elected office. Currently, the attorney general and all 21 county prosecutors are selected by the governor and approved by the state Senate.

"The governor appoints the attorney general," Barnes said. "All the judges, prosecutors, the treasurer — everybody."

New Jersey is one of only five states in which the governor selects the top law enforcement official, according to the National Association of Attorneys General. Forty-three states elect their attorneys general, while two select them a different way.

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