Supreme Court of New Jersey, 1732-1963

RECORD SERIES: Supreme Court of New Jersey
SERIES #: 3400
DATES: 1732-1963
VOLUME: 11 volumes, 7 manuscript boxes

This Supreme Court Record Series is a small series of loose papers and ledgers dating back to 1732.
The Supreme Court of New Jersey has existed in different forms for several hundred years. Under the State Constitutions of 1776 and 1844, the Supreme Court was assigned as a lower court, under the Court of Appeals. Today, the Supreme Court of New Jersey is the highest court in the state and the final authority on all cases.

In 1702, Lord Cornbury, the first Governor of British New Jersey in North America, issued an Ordinance for Establishing Courts of Judicature. Under this ordinance, the Supreme Court of New Jersey was to meet once a year, rotating between Perth Amboy and Burlington. Cornbury empowered the court with jurisdiction over all pleas, civil and criminal.

In 1714, Colonial Governor Robert Hunter ordered that the Supreme Court sit every year at Burlington on first Tuesday of May and November, and at Perth Amboy on second Tuesday of the same months. Hunter’s ordinance also ordered that the justices go to the circuit and keep the Supreme Court in each county, once a year. The ordinance stated that Supreme Court Justices should be assisted by two or more Justices of the Peace of that county.

In 1728, the terms of the Supreme Court were increased, to sit four times a year at Burlington and four times a year at Perth Amboy.

In 1751, only cases involving £300 or more could be appealed to Supreme Court.

In 1764, Royal Governor William Franklin, the son of Benjamin Franklin, issued “An Ordinance for Holding Supreme Court for the Province of New Jersey.” Franklin’s ordinance provided that circuit courts were to be held once a year in all counties. They were to be presided over by a Justice of the Supreme Court and assisted by two Justices of the Peace in the county, with a jury of twelve men.

In 1846, the New Jersey Legislature approved an “Act Relative to Supreme & Circuit Court,” ordering that it shall consist of a Chief Justice and four associates. The court was ordered to meet four times annually at Trenton, on the first Tuesdays in January, April, July and October. The Act designated the court to hear and determine “common business,” but limited hearings on matters over property disputes to $3,000 and above. This Act ordered that the Chief Justice or one of the Justices of the Peace, before whom the Circuit in every county shall be held, shall try all issues.

In 1947, the State of New Jersey’s Constitution reorganized and unified the judicial system under the Supreme Court.

Supreme Court Docketed Judgments, 1930-1963, 1 book
This book has an index on the front pages. It is labeled Book 2, but the location of Book 1 is unknown. The ledger is typed and shows judgments.

Supreme Court and other Courts, Register of Cases, 1893-1905, 3 books
These books have indexes on the front pages. Entries are handwritten in the ledgers and contain the plaintiff, defendant, date, and action.

Supreme Court loose papers, 1732-1926, 7 manuscript boxes
These loose papers are arranged by year, then by defendant. The cases are for, In Ejectment, In Trespass, In Debt, assault, bankruptcy, personal injury, property condemnation and other matters. Some case files include inventory lists of personal possessions, and extensive testimony.

Supreme Court Scratch Minute Books, 1899-1943, 7 books
The Scratch Minute Books are handwritten in pencil, then “scratched” out but readable.

Also included are the loose papers from three property assessment cases for municipal improvements: street paving and improvements on Sairs Avenue in 1906, Liberty Alley in 1907 in Long Branch, and various properties in Keyport for a new sewer line in 1911.

None of the information in the Supreme Court ledgers has been indexed, microfilmed or scanned.

These records are open to the public.
These records are available in the Archives. An Access database indexing loose papers containing 396 records is searchable by defendant, residence, plaintiff, residence, and year.
Loose papers are arranged by year, then by defendant’s last name. Entries in the books are chronological.
Monmouth County Archives
125 Symmes Drive
Manalapan NJ 07726
These records were transferred to the Archives before 2007.
The Access database of Supreme Court loose papers was created November 16, 2007, and now contains 396 records. Three records were added to the database by Mary Hussey on July 20, 2018. This finding aid was created July 18, 2018, by George Joynson. None of the books or loose papers have been microfilmed or scanned.