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Seton Hall Law Review



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Stewart Pollock, Justice Pollock, New Jersey, New Jersey Supreme Court


Stewart Pollock knows how to make a play. On his favorite kind of court - the kind with a net in the middle - he can set up the winning volley with a perfectly placed approach shot. On the court on which he served for the past twenty years, the New Jersey Supreme Court, Justice Pollock proved himself an equally gifted playmaker, earning a reputation as one who could forge consensus through judicial craftsmanship and common sense. Appellate judging is a team sport, though one would hardly know it by looking at recent United States Supreme Court cases, with all their dissents, concurrences, and fractured opinions. The New Jersey Supreme Court, in contrast, has managed to offer many unanimous decisions, even when breaking new ground or dealing with political hot-button issues. The court has accomplished this unanimity despite New Jersey's tradition of maintaining a Democrat- Republican split among the justices. Justice Pollock was at the center of the court on many of these decisions, not only by virtue of his political sensibilities, but also by virtue of his approach to judging. His opinions routinely are included in law school casebooks for their clarity and intelligence. A textbook admirer of Pollock opinions, however, might miss another of their signature qualities - their collegiality. As telling as Justice Pollock's unanimous opinions, which are many, are his concurrences and dissents, which are few. He never, as far as I can tell, wrote a concurrence or a dissent merely to wax eloquent on an interesting legal issue. Justice Pollock wrote separately only where he saw some compelling reason to do so. Generally, an unfractured opinion offers both the litigants and the public clearer guidance, and enhances the court's legitimacy and respect in the eyes of the citizenry and in coordinate branches of the government. Not only is Justice Pollock's majority-to-dissent ratio notably high, his concurrences are exceptionally rare. Looking at his frequent unanimous opinions, his infrequent dissents, and his even less frequent concurrences, one gets an overall impression of the judge. The impression is that of a judge who can build a coalition to ensure unanimity or at least a majority, who is willing to state a dissent on those occasions when his position is irreconcilable with the majority position, but who rarely writes an opinion merely to offer another point of view.

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