N.J. Constitutional Convention: Vol. 4, Page 400

Thursday, July 10, 1947 (Morning session)

thorough supervision, uniformity of action by the trial men with the policy being dictated by the Chancellor under the statute law. It might be interesting for you to know that a plan of legislation has lately been drafted by a group of Chicago judges in an endeavor to cope with the Illinois divorce problem. It is copied after our system and provides for the appointment of Special Masters in Chancery to hear the cases, and to make investigations and recommendations on all complaints for divorce, separate maintenance and annulment and petitions relating to alimony, child custody and support. To throw this jurisdiction into the county courts, as provided for in the 1944 draft, would be the worst mistake that this Convention could make.

Unfortunately, I have discovered that many who would demolish the Court of Chancery are actuated by the desire to make divorces more expeditiously and inexpensively obtainable. They feel that marriage is nothing more than a convenient compact entered in the public records, and that the dissolution of marriages ought to be delegated somewhere other than to a court which has such strict supervision over them. The demand for proof of a legal ground for divorce has become irksome to numerous litigants, and so those who ignore the sanctity of marriage welcomes the effort to abolish the Court of Chancery.

Let me forewarn you, for whatever it is worth, that if this Convention destroys the Court of Chancery and thus extinguishes its jurisdiction over the dissolution of marriages, alimony, and particularly the custody and maintenance of the defenseless and dependent children of the disrupted marriages, it will, in my forecast, bring down upon the proposed Constitution an avalanche of opposition.

Lastly, I would create County Courts having the jurisdiction now exercised by the Common Pleas judges, being careful not to freeze some of their present jurisdiction. It would probably be wiser to have this court a statutory rather than a constitutional one.

Care should be taken so that the jurisdiction now exercised by the surrogate is preserved. It probably cannot be done by providing for the vesting of judicial power "in such inferior courts as now exist and as may be ordained or created by law." The jurisdiction of the surrogate is not exercised by him under the name of a court. (See R.S. 3:6-2; 2:7-12; 3:1-2.) The surrogate is precluded from acting as judge in the Orphan's Court. (R.S. 2:7-17.) The objection to any taking away of the surrogate's jurisdiction needs only to be stated to show its importance to the citizens. At present, in all cases where there is no contest over a will or the right to administration of a decedent's estate, and that means over 95 per cent of the cases, the probate of the will or procuring letters of administration can be obtained from the surrogate, with practically no delay and at

Previous Page in Book ********* Table of Contents *********** Next Page in Book