N.J. Constitutional Convention: Vol. 4, Page 7

Tuesday, June 24, 1947 (Morning session)

Appellate Divisions and Appeals

attending to the appeals from the Equity and Probate Section of the Superior Court and at least one other attending to appeals from the Law Section of the Superior Court. Each of these Appellate Divisions was to consist of a bench of three Justices of the Superior Court.

Appeals were to be taken directly from trial courts to the Supreme Court only in three classes of cases: capital cases, cases involving a constitutional question, and cases which the Supreme Court in its discretion agreed to review directly. In all other cases heard in the Superior Court, appeals had to be taken first to an Appellate Division. Where an Appellate Division had passed upon a case, its judgment was to be final, except in three situations, namely:

  • (1) where there had been a dissenting opinion in the Appellate Division;  
  • (2) where the Appellate Division asked the Supreme Court to review a case; or  
  • (3) where the Supreme Court in its discretion decided to review the matter.  
We thought that the elementary principle here was that every litigant aggrieved by an order or judgment against him is entitled to have his case fully reviewed by one appellate bench of at least three men. However, since appeals are costly and dilatory, a further appeal was to be allowed only in important matters, or where there had been a dissenting opinion in the Appellate Division.

This system of Appellate Divisions, designed to sift out unimportant matters so that the Supreme Court might have the time to give profound consideration to the major legal questions before the State, was modeled somewhat on the system adopted in New York, a few other states and the federal courts. I might say here that from the very beginning of the Commission's meetings - our very first meeting - I held that our federal system could not very much be improved on in anything. However, New York and the federal system each has more than three times the judicial business that New Jersey has. Indeed, in view of the comparatively small volume of appellate business in this State - I have to point out here before I make that statement, that the New York and federal courts all have considerably more business than we do, but in view of the fact that our business, our appellate business, is small in comparison - it has been feared by some that if in nearly all cases appeals had to be taken first to Appellate Divisions and appeals to the Supreme Court were to be limited largely to those which it chose to entertain, there would either, on the one hand, be double appeals in most all cases - and that, of course, is most undesirable - or, on the other hand, there would be so little business in the Supreme Court as to leave the Justices of that court with not enough to occupy themselves. That is

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