District Court, 1913-1982

RECORD GROUP: Clerk of the Court
RECORD SERIES #: 4400
SERIES: District Court
DATES: 1913-1982
VOLUME: 19 volumes

District Court image

ABSTRACT
This series consists of Monmouth County District Court records, from the first and second judicial districts, in the form of docket and judgment books, sample case files from small claims, special civil cases and landlord and tenant disputes and receipts.
HISTORY
The Monmouth County District Court had responsibility for hearing small claims and landlord/tenant disputes from 1948 until 1983, when a constitutional amendment assigned these matters to the Special Civil part of Superior Court. Court personnel subsequently began referring to the earlier District Court files as Special Civil as well.

In 1995, the Monmouth County Archives received approval from the State Archivist to dispose of 272 record cartons of District Court (Special Civil) case files for the years 1976 to 1979. This record series had a retention schedule of fifteen years after disposition date. The County Archivist determined that the files had minimal value for genealogical or historical research, although they were somewhat indicative of economic trends and were useful for research in legal history, for example, to see what type of cases came before the court and the type of documentation involved. A sample was taken of the first 100 cases for each year and microfilmed. However, inadvertently, about 100 additional cases from December 1978 were also filmed. The sample of approximately 500 cases represents about 3% of the original total. After microfilming, all the original records were destroyed.

Most of the cases concern nonpayment of debt or rent; occasionally, individuals brought suit to recover expenses caused by another party. Types of documents in a file typically include: docket envelope with annotations on the progress of the case; complaint; summons; interrogatories and answers to interrogatories; certifications; briefs; orders; invoices; correspondence; memoranda; notice of motion for summary judgment and affidavits in opposition to such a motion; stipulation of settlement; and others.

SCOPE & CONTENT
• District Court, Docket Books, 1971-1981, 412 Docket Books, #s 564-976
• District Court, Docket Books 1981-1982, 49 Docket Books, #s 977-1026
• District Court, Docket Books, Landlord & Tenant, 1951-1981, 92 Docket Books, #s 2-34, T35-T93
• District Court, First Judicial District, 1935,1 box of 2 dockets, 15 cases
• District Court, First Judicial District Docket Books,1913-1949, 127 Docket Books
• District Court, First Judicial District, Receipts Journal, 1938-1948, 2 books
• District Court, Judgment Books, 1913-1958, 18 books
• District Court, Second Judicial District, 1934-1959, 8 cartons of case files
• District Court, Second Judicial District Docket Books, 1913-1948, 90 books
• District Court, Small Claims files, 1980-1982, 2 boxes of 66 sample cases
• District Court, Special Civil files, 1977, 2 cartons loose sample cases
• District Court, Special Civil files, 1980-1986, 5 cartons loose sample cases

Docket & Judgment Books
These volumes are from the District Courts of the First and Second Judicial Districts of the County of Monmouth. The judgments were recorded in the Court of Common Pleas through May 1948, then beginning in the next term starting September, 1948, were recorded in the Monmouth County Court, Law Division. The change occurred as a result of the abolishment of the Court of Common Pleas by provision of the New Jersey Constitution of 1947. Note that the bindings of the early District Court judgment books have the District Court name on the spine but the pages record the court as Common Pleas.

The cases document awards of sums to plaintiffs. The plaintiffs are usually businesses and the defendants are either businesses or individuals. The docket books record the docket number, date of judgment in District Court, names of the plaintiff and defendant, and the amount awarded. The amounts are typically a few hundred dollars. In some cases, it is mentioned that an execution was served but that the money was not paid. For some other cases, there is an added rubber stamp on the side of the page, stating that the money has been paid, with the date and signature of the County Clerk. In the front of the last few volumes in the series, there is an index in the front of the book.

Small Claims Sample Cases
In the period 1980 to 1982, when these records were created, the Small Claims Division of the Monmouth County District Court was handling approximately 400 cases per month. The sixty-six case files in this archival series are a small sample (less than one-half of one percent) taken from 28 record cartons containing about 14,400 cases that had been stored in the Monmouth County Record Center and were authorized for destruction by the Superior Court in Freehold, which is the successor to the Monmouth County District Court that created the records. A random sample was taken, consisting of the first and last record in each box, to which a few selected “fat files” were added that were atypical in the amount of paperwork.

As suggested by the title “Small Claims,” these cases involve one party demanding a relatively small amount of money, typically several hundred dollars, from another party. The plaintiffs and defendants can be two businesses, a business and an individual, or two individuals. Cases may involve a business trying to resolve an unpaid bill where the customer was not satisfied or just refused to pay, a customer seeking a refund from a business; someone trying to obtain a refund of a deposit for a purchase, and similar disputes.

Usually, Small Claims cases were handled expeditiously and resulted in very little paperwork. Such cases generated an envelope which records the case docket number, the parties involved, and the filing date. Inside the envelope was one or more copies of a summons in which the defendant is ordered to appear. The summons states the amount of money that the plaintiff is seeking. A variety of other documents may also be in the file, such as an Assignment in which the plaintiff transfers the claim to another party, or correspondence between one of the parties and the court. Although most of the cases were concluded quickly, sometimes they took several years to resolve and generated more paperwork. Results of each case were recorded in the Monmouth County District Court Small Claims Division Docket Books. These books include records for the sample case files not retained by the Archives. The records are useful for understanding the process by which Small Claims were handled by the Monmouth County District Court. Individual cases give some idea of the types of problems in the early 1980s which led individuals and businesses to seek relief in the courts. Businesses represented in the records include a bank, a jeweler, an exterminator, building contractors and suppliers, automobile dealers, a gas utility company, and others.

ACCESS RESTRICTIONS
There records are open to researchers.
USE
The docket and judgment books and the microfilm are available in Archives.
ARRANGEMENT
SAMPLE CASES
The cases are arranged in docket number order, which is the original order before the files were sampled. The documents, formerly tri-folded to fit in the envelopes, have been taken out of the envelopes and placed in individual folders. Exact duplicates within envelopes were discarded. An Access database containing the 66 sample cases from the District Court Small Claims is available in the archives and searchable by plaintiff, defendant, or by docket number.
REPOSITORY
Monmouth County Archives
125 Symmes Drive
Manalapan NJ 07726
(732) 308-3771
ACQUISITION INFORMATION
These records were transferred to the Archives by County Clerk Jane G. Clayton before 1995.
PROCESSING INFORMATION
Microfilmed records were filmed in the order in which they were found. A finding aid was created September 14, 1995, by Gary D. Saretzky and revised in April 29, 2004, and updated June 26, 2018, by George Joynson. An Access database for the sample cases was created September 22, 2006. These District Court records have not been scanned.