On September 21, 2006, Governor Jon Corzine nominated New Jersey Supreme Court Justice James R. Zazzali to serve as Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court, replacing Justice Deborah T. Poritz who is scheduled to retire. If the nomination is approved, Justice Zazzali would serve as Chief Justice for less than one year before reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70 in June 2007.
To fill Justice Zazzali′s post, Governor Corzine nominated current NJ Appellate Division Judge Helen Hoens. Judge Hoens has served as an Appellate Division judge since 2002.
These two nominations may be of particular interest to employers as both Justice Zazzali and Judge Hoens have authored several employment-related decisions. For example, Justice Zazzali wrote for the majority in Dzwonar v. McDevitt, 177 N.J. 451 (2003). That decision clarified what an employee is required to show under the Conscientious Employee Protection Act (“CEPA”); that an employee need only set forth facts that would support an “objectively reasonable belief that a violation [of a law, rule, regulation or public policy] occurred.” Dzwonar made it easier for employees to state a CEPA claim.
Judge Hoens recently authored the opinion in Myers v. AT&T, 380 N.J. Super. 443 (App. Div. 2005), which sets forth, in dicta, that the U.S. Supreme Court′s decision in Desert Palace, Inc. v. Costa, 539 U.S. 90 (2003), should be applied to all discrimination statutes, including New Jersey′s Law Against Discrimination. Desert Palace held that proof of mixed motive in a Title VII case need not rest on direct evidence.
While both nominations are subject to the advice and consent of the Senate, these nominations should be of particular interest to New Jersey employers.
Dzwonar v. McDevitt
Lois Myers V. AT&T
Desert Palace, Inc. V. Costa