N.J. Constitutional Convention: Vol. 4, Page 324

Tuesday, July 8, 1947 (Afternoon session)

but in all those cases - I wouldn't say all, it might be too broad - but in most of those cases we find that the Common Pleas judge, although he exercises what we call appellate jurisdiction, is also acting as a trial judge. That also became necessary, I think, because in the average motor vehicle case where a man was convicted of drunken driving and he suffered the loss of his license for two years, that was a serious charge to him because it may have affected his livelihood. But notwithstanding that, we continued to try him in a court which was not a court of record of any kind; he was hailed before a magistrate who, in many instances, had no qualifications for the job that he filled, had no knowledge of the rules of evidence. As a result, it was necessary to give him a new trial before a competent tribunal.

The Legislature, and to some degree this Convention, can accomplish something if there will be some limitation upon that type of court, because there is another important factor there and, I think, one that this Committee might well consider. We are directing all our attention - at least we seem to be directing all our attention - to the courts of the highest level. You will remember that the average layman has his only experience with the courts in the lowest level, and some of them have been conducted like "monkey courts," if you will pardon the expression. He leaves that court with his only impression of justice as that of a "monkey court." Now, there again, the lower courts become just as important, from the layman's standpoint, and in that type of case of which you speak.

MR. WINNE: They would have to be statutory courts; there is no question about that.

JUDGE SMITH: They would have to be. But you see, there again, a man tried on a drunken driving charge, if he were tried in a tribunal where there was a record made of the evidence produced, and then there was an appeal to the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court would have - or whatever appellate tribunal you set up, it would not necessarily be your highest appellate court, but it would be an intermediate appellate court.

MR. McGRATH: You would try drunken driving cases in the county courts?

JUDGE SMITH: It might be a good idea to do it at first.

MR. SOMMER: Then you would try it de novo?


MRS. GENE W. MILLER: What do you mean by "de novo"?

JUDGE SMITH: Try it again as though it had never been heard before.

MR. McGRATH: Do judges of the United States District Court have any difficulty in trying all these different jurisdiction cases? Do they have any particular difficulty?

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