N.J. Constitutional Convention: Vol. 4, Page 31

MISS SEUFERT: This draft of the proposed Judiciary Article and the accompanying chart, to our mind, emphasize four main features which we feel are essential to a good judicial system. The first major feature is that of a complete unification of the courts. I do not propose to go into a particular discussion of that, because it has been mentioned in detail several times this morning.

We feel, however - Mr. Bebout and I - that unification of the courts is not satisfactory unless it is complete unification; that all of the state courts should be included in this unification.

Most of the plans that have been submitted, and that probably will be submitted, do not include the inferior courts in this unification plan. We submit that these inferior courts, which contain the bulk of the judicial business of the State, are the most important part of a unified court system.

It is in these lower courts that the greatest number of litigants in the State appear. Their idea of Jersey justice comes from these lower courts, and I think we will find that it is in these lower courts that we get the greatest amount of criticism of the administration of justice. We feel that unification fails unless it does include these inferior courts. And so, you will see in our article and in this chart, that the lower courts (including the county courts and the inferior courts), are to be included. Some of them have been somewhat notorious for maladministration of justice, and we feel that all of them should be under one system, subject to the direct control of the chief administrative judicial agent, who probably would be the Chief Justice. This should go a long way in relieving the unfortunate situation which exists in some of the courts today.

Particularly is this true of the lower criminal courts in this State. Back in 1938 the Judicial Council of New Jersey reported to the Governor and to the Legislature that it was advisable to unify the criminal courts. This report recommended a unification of the criminal courts into one criminal court for the State of New Jersey; and the Judicial Council in that report pointed out that the collapse, and I am quoting "collapse," of our lower criminal courts was due to the fact that they are not independent judicial tribunals, but part of the police system of this State, and as such they became political instrumentalities.

Such situations, of course, would be wiped out completely if the lower criminal courts, along with other small courts, were integrated into one system, and if, as in our proposal here, the Legislature had the power to set up districts or departments within this system, as it finds necessary.

VICE-CHAIRMAN: Miss Seufert, do you think that under our present system it would have been possible to integrate our superior courts and the lower courts under one system?


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