N.J. Constitutional Convention: Vol. 4, Page 655


Editorials from the New Jersey Law Journal, April 17 to June 12, 1950


(New Jersey Law Journal, April 17, 1947)

The prospective Constitutional Convention, an event yet to be approved by the electorate, will afford an opportunity for the revision of New Jersey's antiquated judicial system, which if not grasped wholeheartedly, may not present itself for many years to come. The court system we have today is based on the conditions and needs of 1844 - over 103 years ago. It is further rooted in the hodge-podge of English courts that prevailed in pre-colonial days and which were held over in New Jersey during its colonial and early statehood era.

While England has long since done away with its former conglomerate court system and practically all the states have adopted more efficient judicial systems, New Jersey continues to muddle along with a system that is still modeled after that which England has discarded.

The continuance of our inefficient and wasteful court system is entirely indefensible. There is no rational excuse for a court of last resort of 16 judges. Ours is unique, certainly in the English-speaking world. There is no justification for a court system whose high court judges have such multifarious duties and functions as do the Chancellor, the Supreme Court justices and the lay judges. The Chancellor is not the Court of Chancery today that he was in 1844, when the State had a population totalling 373,306 and its largest city 17,290. Today he administers a court consisting of himself, 10 vice-chancellors and 13 advisory masters. He presides over the Court of Errors and Appeals and is a member of the Court of Pardons. The nine justices of the Supreme Court sit as members of the Court of Errors and Appeals, in addition to their numerous duties in the Supreme Court in matters of appeal, prerogative writs, charging grand juries, riding circuit and, in some instances (fortunately rare), even presiding over murder trials. Small wonder that one eminent member of that court, Mr. Justice Colie, recently felt impelled to acquaint the bar with the details of the excessive burdens borne by the members of that court. (See "Appellate Court Work in New Jersey," 70 N. J. L. J. 53, February 13, 1947).

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