N.J. Constitutional Convention: Vol. 4, Page 379


STATE OF NEW JERSEY CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION OF 1947
COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
Wednesday, July 9, 1947 (Afternoon session)

great importance and great difficulty should be decided by a law judge who only incidentally has had anything to do with equity and who would not be as competent to decide the equity questions as a man who devotes his whole life to equity. I think it's unfair to the law judge to put that burden on him. But the greatest unfairness, as I see it, is the unfairness to the litigant, to deprive him of the benefit of having an important equity question in his case decided by a man who specializes in equity.

Now, it has been stated that a great, a considerable number of our decisions in the Court of Chancery involve the consideration of questions of jurisdiction. I haven't checked that; I believe that it's very much exaggerated. But even if you had both law and equity jurisdiction in one court, that would not destroy the distinction between legal and equitable remedies. You would still have that distinction, and if you attempted to abolish that distinction you would inflict a much greater injury upon the administration of justice than you would merely by abolishing the Court of Chancery.

Let me illustrate what I have in mind about that. About a year or two ago a case was started in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, a court which has jurisdiction of both law and equity, as all federal courts have, probably largely because in some districts they only have one judge, and he must necessarily decide all the cases instituted in a federal court in his district. This case was started to secure an injunction. The trial court conceived that the wrong remedy had been applied for, and that if the plaintiff had any remedy, he should have brought a suit at law, and the judge dismissed the case. The case involved a constitutional question and it went to the United States Supreme Court. The United States Supreme Court learnedly discussed the question as to whether a mistake had been made in seeking the remedy, decided that it had, and determined that the bill must be dismissed and that the plaintiff, if he was to have any remedy, must go right back to the same court and start an action at law to recover his damages.

Now, that case was brought as an equity case by counsel of exceptional ability - leading counsel; the question was a close one, but notwithstanding the fact that the District Court had both law and equitable jurisdiction, the case was dismissed and the only remedy the plaintiff had was to start over again in a law action.

I mention that merely as an illustration of the fact that there is an inherent and necessary difference between legal remedies and equitable remedies; that even though you give a court both law and equity jurisdiction, it would still be incumbent on counsel for the litigant to determine whether the case was a law cause or equity cause. We will not abolish all the inconvenience by giving that sort of jurisdiction to one court.


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