N.J. Constitutional Convention: Vol. 4, Page 656

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

(New Jersey Law Journal, April 17, 1947)

The six lay judges of the Court of Errors and Appeals are also members of the Court of Pardons and in addition may carry on their profession or private callings, though they may not practice law in the courts of the State.

Let it be noted parenthetically that no standards or qualifications of any sort are provided for the constitutional judges.

The Circuit Courts function with civil law jurisdiction which overlaps that of both the Supreme Court and the County Courts of Common Pleas. The overlaps of jurisdiction in probate matters among the Chancery, Prerogative, Orphans' and Surrogates' Courts, and the division of jurisdiction in domestic relations matters among the Chancery, Orphans', Juvenile and Domestic Relations and local Family Courts are indeed difficult to explain or defend as part of a judicial system in this year of grace 1947. The inadequacies of New Jersey's court system are apparent to all who have any knowledge of it.

Thus it is that Chancellor Oliphant (then a Circuit Court judge), in supporting the 1944 proposed revised Constitution, said: "The bench and bar for years have realized the need for overhauling our judicial system."

Of late years, others in addition to the bench and bar - civic organizations, civic-minded individuals, students of government and leaders from every walk of life - have also come to realize the need for changes in our judicial structure. Indeed, the public as a whole would loudly articulate its demand for such changes were it generally aware of the incredible overlappings of jurisdictions in some instances and the impossibility of complete relief in others. For example, to settle one family's domestic difficulties might well require piecemeal relief in five different courts - Chancery, Orphans' Court, Domestic Relations Court and the local Family Court, and any one of the other law courts. How much more insistent would be the public demand for a modern court system if it were aware, as are the bench and bar, of the inefficient use of manpower and unequal distribution of work that inhere in our present system. How can we defend the resulting excessive costs for delayed justice and, sometimes, diluted justice, to the public?

Unfortunately, too often ignored has been the fact that our court system should be primarily designed to serve the interests of the public and not the special interests of lawyers, judges or political leaders. If this fact is brought home to the public together with an exposition of New Jersey's present court system, a thorough-going revision of our judicial structure will inevitably be one of the results of a 1947 Constitutional Convention.

While there have been numerous efforts since 1844 to amend the Judiciary Article of the Constitution, most of them concerned minor changes. Several proposals have been advanced for the merger of

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