N.J. Constitutional Convention: Vol. 4, Page 603


REPORT OF THE SPECIAL COMMITTEE OF ESSEX COUNTY BAR ASSOCIATION CONCERNING CONSTITUTIONAL REVISION OF THE JUDICIAL ARTICLE

Part I


SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS AS TO JUDICIAL ARTICLE


The Committee Action on the Foregoing Propositions

to review of facts in appeals from statutory tribunals, as to which three members of the Committee voted that the scope of review of facts should be as provided by law.

Part II

1. ORGANIZATION OF TRIAL COURTS

New Jersey's Systems of Courts

The number and diversity of our courts and the overlapping boundaries of their jurisdiction are the salient features of New Jersey's present system for the administration of justice. The organization of courts, as revised by the 1844 Constitution, has persisted to date with only minor change. In its ultimate origin, the court system has its roots in English feudal history and in the events of New Jersey's colonial development. This connection has not been severed in theory or practice. In consequence, judges still find it necessary to discover the authoritative limits of their jurisdiction by antiquarian research in the fragmentary collection of 12th and 13th Century decisions in the Year Books.

The business which the courts transact is roughly divided into criminal cases, civil controversies, either in the law courts or in the Court of Chancery, and the administration of decedents' estates. The courts which administer the criminal law include Justices of the Peace, Municipal Recorders and Police Magistrates' Courts, Judicial District Criminal Courts, the Courts of Oyer and Terminer, Quarter Sessions and Special Sessions, all of which are trial courts. The Court of Quarter Sessions, like the Court of Common Pleas, also has limited appellate jurisdiction. The Supreme Court has a combination of trial, appellate and supervisory jurisdiction over criminal cases. The Court of Chancery has a perfunctory function in connection with appeals in capital cases. The Court of Errors and Appeals is the appellate tribunal of last resort.

The courts of law which deal with civil controveries include the Justice of the Peace, Small Cause Courts, District Courts, the Courts of Common Pleas and the Circuit Courts, all of which are trial courts having a more or less limited jurisdiction according to geography, subject matter and the sum in controversy, the Supreme Court, which is both a trial and appellate court, and the Court of Errors and Appeals, the appellate court of last resort.

Those features of civil controversies which invoke principles of equity and are not exclusively reserved to the courts of law, are heard in the Court of Chancery, or, to a very limited degree, in the Circuit Court. Proceedings for divorce and annulment of marriages, maintenance of deserted wives and custody of children, as well as some civil controversies between spouses, are also remitted to the Court of Chancery. Appeals go to the Court of Errors and Appeals.


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