Superior Court: Municipal Appeals, Books and Sample Cases,1979-1996
RECORD GROUP: Clerk of the Court
RECORD SERIES #: 4300.2 and 4300.5
SERIES: Superior Court: Municipal Appeals, Books and Sample Cases
VOLUME: books, 20 volumes; sample cases, 13 cubic feet
From 1947 to 1979, the Monmouth County Court was responsible for appeals from penalties imposed by the Municipal Courts for criminal cases. In 1979, jurisdiction of the County Court was transferred to the Superior Court. Consequently, the records in 4300.2 and 4300.5 are a continuation of Record Series 4200.7, Monmouth County Court: Criminal Appeals.
While the Criminal Appeal Books are permanent records, the case files are on a five-year retention schedule. On May 1, 2000, the Superior Court authorized the destruction of the 1992-1994 case files, comprising 31 record cartons. Since these records, particularly the transcripts of the Municipal Court proceedings, are a rich source for social and local history, the Archives retained a selected sample of 138 cases in 10 record cartons and the remainder were destroyed.
In 2004, after the Superior Court authorized destruction of the 1996 Municipal Appeals case files in storage at the Monmouth County Record Center, as per the retention schedule, the Monmouth County Archives selected 53 of 189 case files for permanent retention, reducing the volume from 13 to 3 record cartons.
Appeals cases provide good documentation of the types of cases that came before Municipal courts, for which the Monmouth County Archives does not have records for this period. A high proportion of the cases involve automobiles: careless driving, speeding, disobeying traffic signs, leaving the scene of an accident, driving while intoxicated (DWI), and other driving offenses. Other types of cases include, but are not limited to, possession of drugs (CDS), civil disobedience, cruelty to animals, harassment, disorderly conduct, not maintaining a property, dog theft, shoplifting, simple assault, bad checks, foul language, swimming in unprotected waters, zoning violations, and littering. Aside from providing a cross section of the kinds of cases that came before the courts, the documents provide information about social customs and conditions, the physical environment, and fine points regarding the interpretation of laws.
Types of documents in the case files typically include a transcript of the trial in the municipal court, statements by the prosecution and the defense, and the judgment by the Superior Court. Motions, forms, and correspondence are also found in these files. In addition, exhibit items, such as statements by expert witnesses and, less frequently, photographs and videotapes, are present.
Because the files contain so many similar records, selection was biased toward retention of cases involving reversal of judgment on appeal; cases that involved a death; unusual subjects; and files that contained photos or videos. An example of an unusual case is State vs. Sinai Algov, #95-96, when a school bus driver was cited for littering because an adolescent dropped a beer can out the window and since, as per statute, the litterer could not be identified, the driver of the vehicle was held responsible; the successful appeal was based in part on the contention that the Orthodox Yeshiva students on the bus were celebrating Purim, the one day in the year when their rabbis encouraged boys thirteen years old and over to drink alcohol while traveling to collect charity. The attorney for the defense quoted Herman Wouk’s, This Is My God: “The key note of Purim is riotous rejoicing. The Talmud gives leave to a worshipper to drink on this day until he cannot tell the difference between ‘Blessed be Mordechai’ and ‘Cursed be Haman.'”
See the guide to Record Series 4200.7, Monmouth County Court: Criminal Appeals, for additional information on the content of these records.
Access is governed by the following policy memorandum from the Superior Court (Freehold Vicinage) court administrator: Joseph D. Barba, Esq., A.T.C.A., to Lawrence Cella, Monmouth County Records Manager, May 7, 1998. As per this policy, there are no restrictions on access to the sample cases, since they are beyond the retention period. Requests for access to the books are referred to Superior Court.
Superior Court handles requests for access to case files more recent than those described here.
An inventory of the sample cases is available in the Archives reading room. The inventory is provided in three sequences: docket number, name of defendant, and crime.