N.J. Constitutional Convention: Vol. 4, Page 398


STATE OF NEW JERSEY CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION OF 1947
COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
Thursday, July 10, 1947 (Morning session)

This is a brief resumé of the type of matters heard by the court and which comprise a large part of the legal actions heard in this State. The business of the court rose from about 8,000 cases in 1915 to 26,600 in 1932, the peak year in all courts throughout the country, and 16,300 cases in 1946, and today the load is steadily increasing. In addition to this, the court handled all the incidental orders and motions incident to each cause.

I am firmly convinced that we have in this State the finest and best system of equity jurisprudence in this country, perhaps in the whole world, and I am not alone in this view. Why change it? Change simply for the sake of change is basically unsound. Why discard that which over the years has proven good unless you can put in its place something better. Because other jurisdictions have abolished the Court of Chancery as such and merged or fused equity and law is no sound excuse for our doing so here, unless it can be shown that the experience of those jurisdictions which have made the change shows it to be better. More of this later.

I do not think the majority of us are very far apart. The method of accomplishing the desired result is the problem of this Convention.

We are nearly all agreed that there should be a separate, independent court of last resort, the members of which will have no other duties outside of the work of that court, opinion work. Our aim should be quality, not quantity. We are further pretty much agreed that in all cases there should be but one appeal as a matter of right, except in a small number of cases. Further, the objective of all of us is to see that there should be as speedy trials and final determination of all causes as possible, with each cause being heard and determined, where practical, and under rules properly promulgated, before one judge or court.

In connection with this I should say at this point that I am opposed to the provision contained in the 1944 draft which provides that "Every controversy shall be fully determined by the court or justice hearing it." (Art. V, Sec. I, par. 2) I am convinced it is unworkable. The word "controversy" is a generic term and encompasses nearly every conceivable situation which might develop. This means the fusing of law and equity jurisdiction by means of coming in the back door.

I am cognizant of the fact that there are law cases where equitable relief could and should be granted by the law courts, and other cases where the Court of Chancery could properly determine certain incidental legal questions which might arise, but I can envisage cases which could not be tried conveniently, expeditiously or properly in proceedings by a single judge.

I have prepared a provision which, in my judgment, will properly take care of this situation so that litigants will not be unduly


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