N.J. Constitutional Convention: Vol. 4, Page 9


STATE OF NEW JERSEY CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION OF 1947
COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
Tuesday, June 24, 1947 (Morning session)


Jurisdictional Difficulties

sistent, recurring and ineradicable conflict between the Court of Chancery and the various law and probate courts."

Not only does our present system give rise to wasteful jurisdictional controversies, but it results in the trial of a single controversy in piecemeal fashion before two and sometimes more courts. Speaking of the benefits accomplished in England in 1873 by the merger of courts, and taking notice of the 1909 amendments, Vice-Chancellor Stevenson, one of our very great Vice-Chancellors, in Martin Co. v Martin & Wilckes Co., 75 N. J. Eq. 39, 56, (1908), remarks:

"... Justice, convenience and common sense should not be sacrificed in order to maintain a rigid remedial system. ...

After trying a nuisance case for three or four days and granting an injunction, it gives me no satisfaction, but, on the contrary, somewhat shocks my sense of justice to refuse to hear the complainant's appeal for his damages, and to require him to bring an action at law involving perhaps three or four days of trial in order that his damages may be assessed by a jury. ..."

The proposal of the Commission on Revision in 1942 serves to resolve those difficulties. Under its plan, each Justice of the Superior Court was expressly constituted a Justice of the entire court with power to exercise the jurisdiction of the whole court; and it was expressly required that every controversy coming before him should be fully determined by him.

Elevating the Dignity of the Offices of Those Entrusted with the Trial of Important Criminal Actions and Jury Cases

The Commission's proposal was to integrate our present system of nine separate superior courts into a single Superior Court. That was our proposal. This plan serves, not only to eliminate jurisdictional controversies and to prevent piecemeal litigation of a single cause, but it serves one other major purpose. Under the scheme of the 1844 Constitution, important criminal and civil cases were tried before a jury by a Justice of the Supreme Court, a judicial officer who outranks even a Vice-Chancellor in our judicial hiearchy. The office of Vice-Chancellor was, by the way, established by Laws of 1871, page 30. Such trials continued before the Justices for many years after 1871. However, their duties became so onerous with the increase of litigation that these functions were delegated to lower court judges - the civil cases to the Judges of the Circuit Courts (the office of Circuit Court Judge was established by Laws of 1893, page 158) and Common Pleas Courts, and the criminal cases to the Common Pleas Judges. It was not until 1928 (Laws of 1928, chapter 248) that the Common Pleas Judges in the 19 smaller counties in the State came to be entrusted with the trial of murder cases.

At all times in our history the salary of the Vice-Chancellor has exceeded that of the Circuit Court Judge; and the salary of the


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