N.J. Constitutional Convention: Vol. 4, Page 605


Part II


New Jersey's Systems of Courts

a century. However, any contention that the prestige of New Jersey's courts has become diminished solely by reason of an outmoded court structure does not appear to be well founded. Judges of great distinction have attracted national attention while serving in New Jersey. Able and disinterested judges in other states have reflected credit upon the administration of justice, however organized. It is true that the benefits of centralized administration of justice have only been partially realized in New Jersey. In consequence, there is a pressing need for centralized supervision of the work of the courts to the end that cases be heard and decided expeditiously. Moreover, no system has been devised whereby judicial officers are readily available for transfer according to the condition of local judicial calendars. The multiplicity of functions assigned to appellate judges has retarded and affected the work of their courts. On the other hand there has been evidence of judicial concern with these deficiencies in the court structure. To the extent that they persist, they merely reflect shortcomings familiar in any governmental structure which must adapt itself to the vastly altered circumstances of 1947 as compared with 1844.

Merger of Law Courts

Most proposals for constitutional revision of New Jersey's judicial structure contemplate merger of the law courts into a single tribunal of statewide jurisdiction. In its several branches, the court thus constituted would try cases and also serve as an appellate tribunal for certain of its own determinations as well as for all decisions of inferior courts and administrative agencies created by the Legislature.

In criminal matters, the new court would hear all cases now brought in the Courts of Special Sessions, Quarter Sessions, Oyer and Terminer and Supreme Court. Civil actions now commenced in the Courts of Common Pleas, Circuit Court and Supreme Court would also be brought in the new court. In the same way, this court would amalgamate the functions of the Surrogate and Orphans' Court in the administration of decedents' estates.

The merger of law courts would not eradicate the inherent variety and complexity of matters which are brought into litigation. Nor would the creation of a single forum obliterate the differences, for example, between an indictment for assault and battery and an application of executors to sell real estate in order to pay estate taxes. However, the existence of confusion engendered by the variety of courts, many hearing the same general type of case, would be eliminated. Moreover, as members of a single court having equal rank among themselves, the entire body of judges would be available for assignment as needed. Minimum standards of accomplishment in the dispatch of judicial business could be

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