N.J. Constitutional Convention: Vol. 4, Page 18

Tuesday, June 24, 1947 (Morning session)


Mr. Chairman, first - I am now reading my report - first, we propose that there be established a small Court of Appeals, composed of judges with no other duties. This proposal is aimed at two conspicuous defects in our present Court of Errors and Appeals. This court, with its 16 members, is the largest court in the world. It has been said of it that it is "a little larger than a jury, a little smaller than a mob." It has grown even beyond the dimensions intended by the 1844 Constitution, when the Supreme Court had only seven Justices as against the nine who now compose it. The experience of other states indicates a court of five, or at most, of seven members, the latter being the maximum number of judges in any court of appeals of any of our states.

We urge further that the judges composing the Court of Appeals must owe no allegiance except to their court. In our present Court of Errors and Appeals the Chancellor, of necessity, devotes a large, if not the greater part of his time, to the administration of the Court of Chancery. The Justices of the Supreme Court are similarly occupied with the duties of their several judicial districts. The Chief Justice, in addition, must supervise their work. The six "lay" Judges, with the Chancellor, sit ex officio on the Court of Pardons, and these Judges besides are free to follow their private vocations. These burdensome and often conflicting activities must be eliminated in the new Court of Appeals so that its members may be free to devote their entire time to the supreme responsibilities of their appellate work.

Our second proposal is that the presiding judge, or Chief Justice, of this Court of Appeals must be the responsible administrative chief of the whole judicial department. In our existing judicial structure the Chancellor has the post of greatest honor, but his administrative control is only of the Court of Chancery and also as the presiding judge, and he sits in the Court of Errors and Appeals only on appeals from the law courts. The Chief Justice has administrative authority only over the law courts and presides in the Court of Errors and Appeals only over equity appeals.

The principle invoked by this proposal is the centering of responsibility in one man for the proper functioning of all the state and municipal courts. That man is appropriately the titular head of the highest court. From that vantage point he can oversee the needs of the whole judicial system, can arrange for the proper allocation of judges, deal with abuses, and in so doing speak with the voice of supreme authority. The power vested in him would closely knit the courts of original jurisdiction with our single Court of Appeals.

The third proposal is that the Constitution provide a unified court of statewide jurisdiction, sitting in appropriate divisions and

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