• Judge Michael Donio

Ask the judge: Why is Hammonton not in same state district as Atlantic City and EHT?



Why is Hammonton not in the same state district as

Atlantic City and Egg Harbor Twp. and our Atlantic County towns?


That is a question that deserves a very long and detailed answer beyond this column. I will try to summarize.


When the census is performed every 10 years, immediately thereafter, a reapportionment commission is named in the State of New Jersey. I believe it has 10 people: five that are Democratic and five that are Republican. Those people use the census numbers and divide those numbers among the 40 districts in the state of New Jersey.


The goal then is to equalize each district according to population of each town within that district. For example, the last time this was done, as you know, Hammonton got taken out of the Atlantic County District and put into the Burlington County District. That is why you get political ads and flyers from people running in the Burlington County District while, in many cases, you don’t even know who they are. On the other hand, in the Atlantic County District, for instance, this year’s state senate race where you have people running that you read about and know about, you will not have the opportunity to vote for that race.


The districts are supposed to be a non-political way of evening out the districts, but of course, politics always enters into this equation. Anyone who tells you differently is not being sincere. Therefore, with the last census being recently done, the re-apportionment committee has already been named, and they are already looking at the numbers and trying to draw up the lines.


If there is a tie in the reapportionment process where the parties do not agree (which seems to be the case now) then the Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court has the matter presented to him and he makes the final decision as to appointing a person to break any tie.


It is a long process, it is not perfect, and I, for one, hope that under the next census, Hammonton returns back into the Atlantic County District where I believe it belongs.


How do you know if your adoption lawyer is an expert in the field?


As with any other case you have, when you speak with a lawyer you’re absolutely within your rights to ask them what their experience is in the type of matter you are talking to them about. In the case of an adoption, you would ask that lawyer how many private adoptions they have handled, how many agencies adoptions they have handled, and have them explain the whole process to you. I know many lawyers that can go through their entire legal career and never handle an adoption.


Most adoptions are through some type of an agency, whether it be the Division of Youth and Family Services or some other agency that is authorized in the state of New Jersey to do that. Private adoptions are very rare in the state of New Jersey and should only be undertaken with absolute caution. There are cases indicating how people have gotten into trouble with private adoptions that have not been handled appropriately.


Therefore, besides reaching out to agencies that handle adoptions, if you speak to a lawyer about adoption, you should be certain that they have handled these in the past.


That, of course, goes for any area of law. You should ask questions, get referrals and speak to someone who knows the law, even if they don’t know that particular area of law. One of the things that I personally am doing besides mediations is meeting with clients and making sure they get sent to the right lawyer for their issue.


Judge Michael Donio served as a New Jersey State Superior Court Judge for 20 years before retiring on July 31, 2015. He now operates a legal consulting and mediation firm on the White Horse Pike. Donio can be reached by calling (609) 481-2919. Send your questions for his columns to askthejudge@hammontongazette.com.