The Superior Court
is the state court in the U.S. state
A U.S. state is any one of the 50 federated states of the United States of America that share sovereignty with the federal government. Because of this shared sovereignty, an American is a citizen both of the federal entity and of his or her state of domicile. Four states use the official title of...
of New Jersey
New Jersey is a state in the Northeastern and Middle Atlantic regions of the United States. , its population was 8,791,894. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York, on the southeast and south by the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by Pennsylvania and on the southwest by Delaware...
, with state-wide trial and appellate jurisdiction. The Superior Court has three divisions: the Appellate Division is essentially an intermediate appellate court while the Law and Chancery Divisions function as trial courts. Each division is in turn divided into various parts.
Like justices of the New Jersey Supreme Court
The New Jersey Supreme Court is the highest court in the U.S. state of New Jersey. It has existed in three different forms under the three different state constitutions since the independence of the state in 1776...
, judges of the Superior Court are appointed by the Governor
The Office of the Governor of New Jersey is the executive branch for the U.S. state of New Jersey. The office of Governor is an elected position, for which elected officials serve four year terms. While individual politicians may serve as many terms as they can be elected to, Governors cannot be...
and confirmed by the State Senate
The New Jersey Senate was established as the upper house of the New Jersey Legislature by the Constitution of 1844, replacing the Legislative Council. From 1844 until 1965 New Jersey's counties elected one Senator, each. Under the 1844 Constitution the term of office was three years. The 1947...
for initial terms of seven years. If reappointed before the expiration of the initial term, the judge is said to have tenure and can serve until the mandatory judicial retirement age of 70. Retired judges may be recalled to serve in courts other than the Supreme Court. Judges are assigned to the court's divisions and parts (and in the case of the Law and Chancery Divisions, to a particular vicinage) by the Supreme Court.
The Appellate Division hears appeals from the Law and Chancery Divisions and final decisions of State administrative agencies. There are eight parts, designated "A" through "H," and each part has three or four judges. Judges are rotated among the parts on an annual basis. Unlike the federal and some other state appellate courts, appeals are not allocated among the parts on a territorial basis and Appellate Division precedent is equally binding state-wide.
One of the judges on each part is designated as the presiding judge and there is an overall presiding judge for administration. Appeals are decided by a panel of two or three judges from the part to which the appeal is assigned.
If the Supreme Court has less than seven members available to hear a case, either because of vacancies or recusals, senior Appellate Division judges may be assigned to serve temporarily.
The Appellate Division has a central clerk's office that processes the filing of notices of appeal, briefs, motions and other papers.
Appeals in New Jersey must be filed within 45 days.
The Chancery Division consists of the General Equity, Probate and Family Parts.
General Equity Part
The General Equity Part handles civil cases where the primary relief sought is equitable in nature, although it may grant incidental legal relief. In most vicinages only one judge is assigned to the General Equity Part.
The Probate Part handles contested probate matters, guardianships etc. Usually the General Equity judge handles the probate calendar on a weekly or less frequent basis. The county surrogate acts as the deputy clerk of the Superior Court for the Probate Part in the county.
The Family Part was created when the State Constitution was amended to eliminate the juvenile and domestic relations courts in each county and so it has the distinction of being the only part specifically mandated by the constitution.
The Family Part is responsible for all cases arising out of marriage (or marriage-like) relationships, juvenile matters and domestic violence cases.
The Civil Part has jurisdiction over all civil cases where the principal relief sought is legal in nature and it may grant incidental equitable relief so that a case may be fully decided in one forum.
Special Civil Part
The Special Civil Part essentially succeeded to the jurisdiction of the former county district courts. Cases may be filed in the Special Civil Part where the amount in controversy does not exceed $15,000 (or more if the plaintiff waives the excess). It also has a small claims section for cases involving less than $3000 and a landlord-tenant section to adjudicate summary dispossess actions.
Plaintiff may act as pro-se, corporations must hire an attorney for claime in excess of $3,000.
The Special Civil Part is designed to provide expedited and somewhat relaxed proceedings in smaller cases. The Special Civil Part has its own clerk in each county (rather than relying upon the Superior Court clerk's office) and many forms are available.
The Criminal Part handles all indictable criminal cases and appeals from convictions in municipal courts.
Organization of Trial Parts
The Clerk of the Superior Court is appointed by the Supreme Court and heads the centralized clerk's office; however, most pleadings are filed in the county in which the action is venued with the Deputy Clerk, Superior Court, for the county.
For administrative purposes, the State is divided into fifteen vicinages. Most vicinages comprise a single county, but there are two vicinages that consist of two counties and two vicinages that consist of three counties. The head of judiciary in each county is the assignment judge. The General Equity, Family, Civil and Criminal Parts in each vicinage are headed by a presiding judge.
The Rules Governing the Courts of New Jersey provide for the use of certain post-nominal letters
Post-nominal letters, also called post-nominal initials, post-nominal titles or designatory letters, are letters placed after the name of a person to indicate that the individual holds a position, educational degree, accreditation, office, or honour. An individual may use several different sets of...
after the names of judges. Superior Court judges for whom no other designation is provided use "J.S.C." Appellate Division judges use the post-nominal letters "J.A.D." (or "P.J.A.D." in the case of a presiding judge). The Assignment Judge of a vicinage is designated "A.J.S.C." Presiding judges of trial court parts use "P.J.Ch." (General Equity), "P.J.F.P." (Family), P.J.Cv." (Civil) and "P.J.Cr." (Criminal) as appropriate.