N.J. Constitutional Convention: Vol. 4, Page 8

Tuesday, June 24, 1947 (Morning session)

Appellate Divisions and Appeals

a question which must, of course, be considered by your Committee.

In any event, you will need Appellate Divisions, or some intermediate appellate bench or benches of three men each, depending on your judgment, to hear appeals from District Courts, the Workmen's Compensation Bureau and other appeals from lower courts and statutory tribunals heard on the record below.

Superior Court

Below the Appellate Divisions there was to be established, according to the Commission's plan, a Superior Court with general trial jurisdiction in all cases. This court was to be divided into two sections, a Law Section with civil, criminal and matrimonial jurisdiction, and an Equity and Probate Section exercising the remaining jurisdiction of the court. In broad outline, this plan was modeled on that adopted in England 74 years ago, which has proved eminently satisfactory there.

I might say that during my travels abroad I served under a British officer who is now head of the Admiralty Courts of Great Britain. We discussed this whole situation at great length many, many times, and he did not have enough praise for the British system. He could not understand how we still have a separate Court of Chancery after what they had done with their Court of Chancery under the 1873 Judiciary Act.

Jurisdictional Difficulties

The proposal of the Commission relative to the establishment of a Superior Court has two principal virtues. First of all, it would serve to eliminate the inefficiencies which inhere in our system of separate law, equity and probate courts, each with fixed jurisdictions. It will be recalled that the jurisdiction of each of the major courts, modeled on the English courts of the 17th Century, was rendered largely immutable by the present Constitution. It continued as it stood when the Constitution was adopted in 1844. This situation has given rise to many jurisdictional controversies in the courts. So far as the litigant is concerned, such controversies as these serve utterly no purpose and, of course, are quite expensive. In a report by a committee of the Essex County Bar Association, published June 5, 1947, an analysis is made of the cases found in 137 Equity, the latest bound volume of the New Jersey Equity Reports. I quote from that report:

"The volume, covering nine months of Chancery decisions, contains 119 opinions, of which 102 were Vice-Chancellors' decisions. Of that number 14 dealt with the right of Chancery to take jurisdiction in preference to the law courts, 2 considered the right of the Court of Chancery to remove administration of two estates from the Orphans' Court, and 20 involved the removal of fiduciaries and instructions to them, where the estates in other respects were being administered by the Orphans' Court. Thus one out of every three of these reported cases illustrates the per-

Previous Page in Book ********* Table of Contents *********** Next Page in Book