N.J. Constitutional Convention: Vol. 4, Page 121


STATE OF NEW JERSEY CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION OF 1947
COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
Tuesday, July 1, 1947 (Morning session)

able to him.

JUDGE RICHARD HARTSHORNE: Thank you very much.

Mr. Chairman - two "Mr. Chairmans" in fact - ladies and gentlemen: I want to try as best as a mere trial judge can, to bring down to New Jersey specifically, one at least of the points to which Dean Pound alluded, and yet from a slightly different angle. I would like to speak of our court system, not from the standpoint of judges and lawyers, but from the standpoint of the citizens.

There is an ancient adage, you know: "The law was made for man, not man for the law." I have often wondered whether or not the Constitution, despite the best the courts could do, had not handicapped the courts. A little book written over 40 years ago, The Courts of England and New Jersey, discussed not only the courts of England and the courts of New Jersey, but also the courts of various other English-speaking commonwealths throughout the world. The conclusion arrived at in this book by a man who was a very careful man - as I think our good friend, the Chief Justice, will agree - Charles Hartshorne, was that our system here, our court system, was the most antiquated and intricate that exists in any considerable community of English-speaking people.

Now, that was said more than 40 years ago, obviously without the slightest reference to any of the contemporary issues that face us at present. Is that conclusion still true? I am going to call your attention to certain facts in the record and let you draw your own conclusion, because as the Chief Justice said here a moment ago, what we want, what the man on the street wants, is to have his whole case tried and disposed of, and then have a right to an appeal in the event of error - but not a lot of trials and not a lot of appeals. I fear that what I have to say would indicate it is the latter which we have.

I think - since I can't go through the records and give you by any means the multitude of cases that appear in the records, and can only pick out here and there - that what Senator Hendrickson told you, I believe a week ago, cannot too often be stressed; that out of the recent 119 opinions filed in the Chancery courts, and I think the same thing applies in the common law courts, out of the last 119, a third of them went off on jurisdictional questions. Now jurisdictional questions mean nothing to a man who wants justice. He wants a decision on the merits, and when the lawyers have to argue on whether they are in the right court or in the wrong court, it's just nothing to the man who is paying the bill.

So let us consider just a few sample cases, and let me give you three general categories of cases into which the multitude fall, where the litigant finds himself pushed from one court to another seeking justice. The first class of cases of double litigation - I call it double litigation, but actually, as I will show you, it runs into double, triple,


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