N.J. Constitutional Convention: Vol. 4, Page 134


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

Court work waits until the Court of Errors and Appeals' work is done, and that often results in a very long delay. It so happens that at the present time there are a limited number of opinions hanging over from the October, 1946, term of the Supreme Court. We all know that is wrong. Such delay should not be. We are not able to make one year-long term for the Court of Errors and Appeals because that would leave no time at all for the term or terms of the Supreme Court.

I have this suggestion to make to you: while I think, in all probability, the newly designed court of last resort would try the experiment of having a single term and that most likely the the experiment would work out successfully, I doubt the wisdom of putting in the Constitution the provision that there shall be but one term. That should be left to the court. There were a number of things in that proposed Constitution of 1944 that I think should not be in a Constitution, not because they are not good, wise and advisable, but because adequate discretion is not left to the court in some instances and to the Legislature in some instances. I may have occasion to speak more lengthily on that, but at the moment I state our view that it would not be advisable to write into the Constitution what the length or number of the terms of any of the courts should be. That is well left to the court.

We recommend, therefore, an independent court of last resort and such incidental changes as are required by that shift. As to the number of members - probably seven; we think not less, and preferably not more. That was the provision in the 1944 proposed Constitution.

Now, as to something that perhaps will seem to you to be selfish on the part of the members of the court. Nevertheless, it is the recommendation of the Justices of the Supreme Court that the nine Supreme Court Justices and the Chancellor should, by the schedule of the Constitution, be preserved as the judges of the court of last resort, even though they number more than the seven which is the suggested number; those members to continue until their service is ended by death, resignation or retirement.

In a very short time the court would be reduced to seven. You start, presumably, with ten - the Chancellor and the nine Supreme Court Justices - although we cannot look into the future and say that there will be a full quota of judicial officers in office at that time. Nor can we say that the nine men who are now Justices, will be the nine then. I want to give you an idea of the quickness with which changes take place in the Supreme Court and, as far as that goes, in the Court of Errors and Appeals - but particularly in the Supreme Court. I went on the court in February of 1929 and, within a year and two or three months, three Justices had either


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