N.J. Constitutional Convention: Vol. 4, Page 228


STATE OF NEW JERSEY CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION OF 1947 COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
Thursday, July 3, 1947 (Morning session)

had to pay for their services. I have in mind one case of my own in which I made a motion to dismiss a case pending in the Court of Chancery for lack of jurisdiction. The Vice-Chancellor decided in my favor and dismissed the case, and then he reconsidered the matter and reinstated the case. I then took an appeal to the Court of Errors and Appeals, and to show you how close the question was, the Court of Errors and Appeals split six to nine on the jurisdictional question. So even the judges didn't agree.

But one of the worst cases illustrating chaos as to jurisdiction - an important case - was this one: A divorced wife made a contract with her husband for the payment of alimony. The husband fell down in his payments. She brought suit in the Court of Chancery to specifically enforce that contract. The Vice-Chancellor dismissed the case, holding that the remedy was in the law court. Thereupon the attorney for the wife sought enforcement in the law court. The law court kicked the case out because the remedy was in the Chancery Court, and then an appeal was taken to the Court of Errors and Appeals, and that court said that the remedy was in Chancery, not by a suit for specific performance but by an application for increased alimony. Now, under a unified court system you would not have that controversy over jurisdictional differences. Under a unified court system, in most instances, the question would not be one of jurisdiction, but rather whether the parties were entitled to a jury trial.

Now, another point I want to touch on is this piecemeal litigation. I am addressing myself primarily to the lay members of this Committee. Our court system today may be compared with a number of separate, large and incomplete housing units. One house has the heating plant, another has the plumbing system, the third has the roof, the fourth has the electric lights - but not one of them has all. Perhaps this is an exaggerated example, and perhaps not strictly in evidence, but I have exaggerated it primarily to illustrate to the laymen that under the present court system, with the separate and limited jurisdictions of our various courts, it is often impossible to get complete relief in one action. In the law court you can get damages, but you cannot get an injunction. In the Court of Chancery you can get an injunction, but no damages, except in special cases. In the Orphans' Court you can get probate of a will, but you cannot get an adjudication of rights in an adverse proceeding, you cannot bring an action to set aside a fraudulent conveyance made by the decedent in his lifetime, and you cannot get instructions for a testamentary trustee in connection with the execution of a trust. That you cannot do. These remedies must be sought in other courts.

There is a very interesting case just reported in this morning's issue of the Law Journal, involving a proceeding before the Court


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