N.J. Constitutional Convention: Vol. 4, Page 323


STATE OF NEW JERSEY CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION OF 1947
COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
Tuesday, July 8, 1947 (Afternoon session)

variety of matters. You have patent matters, you have admiralty matters, you have criminal matters, you have negligence cases, you have contract cases, you have tort cases. Undoubtedly, you have a greater variety of cases than any other judges, than any other court judge I know.

I am wondering whether a system might not be adopted at this Convention so that we could have a court trying equity cases, tort, contract cases, etc., at the trial court level, whatever it turns out to be. Now, should those men also have probate, criminal, compensation and all other things that now are in the county courts, or should we have in addition to the trial court, at the level I am speaking of, a county court, such as we now have, which would try probate and criminal and workmen's compensation appeal cases, drunken driving cases, etc.? That is one question we have not been able to solve.

JUDGE SMITH: It depends on how many categories - it depends on the extent of jurisdiction that you give to the courts. If the courts are to be one of original jurisdiction, you will confine it to the trial of cases, and I see no difficulty. However, the average Common Pleas judge handles probate matters as well as the trial of civil cases, and I don't see that that presents any real difficulties, because there are very few probate matters contested at that level. The greater contest occurs in equity.

MR. WINNE: I don't believe I make my point clear. Now, this judge tries a probate case - let's assume you have a county judge trying probate cases - should that judge also be a judge that tries all other cases, jury cases, etc., or should you have two separate courts, one for say, the circuit court, that tries jury cases, and another that tries civil or probate matters? Or, should we merge those into one court? Or, should we provide for county courts and probate courts?

JUDGE SMITH: It is my opinion that there is no magic in either the number of courts or the name you give them. It depends upon the jurisdiction that you vest in the men who sit there. Now, I see no objection to the Common Pleas judge entertaining jurisdiction in civil matters, criminal matters, or in any probate matters. I do see some objection, however, to giving him also appellate jurisdiction in other fields, such as workmen's compensation, drunken driving cases, and all that sort of back wash. I think that has arisen in New Jersey because when these new statutes came up - the Motor Vehicle Act and all that sort of thing - they began depositing jurisdiction in the various county courts because they had nowhere else to put it. These matters didn't seem to warrant going to the Supreme Court of the State, so as a result they found themselves in the county court with trial de novo. We call it appeal,


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