New Jersey Appeals: Jurisdiction and Decision-Making Process

Article VI of the Constitution of 1947 creates two constitutional courts: the Supreme Court and Superior Court. In 1978, a third constitutional court, the County Court in each county, was abolished by amendment and merged into the Superior Court. The Supreme Court of New Jersey is the court of last resort in all cases, while the Superior Court, Appellate Division is New Jersey's intermediate appellate court. The Law Division and the Chancery Division of the Superior Court exercise appellate jurisdiction over appeals from the municipal courts in criminal, quasi-criminal, ordinance and motor vehicle matters.

New Jersey Supreme Court
The Supreme Court acquires jurisdiction over cases on appeal either as of right or by exercise of its discretionary jurisdiction by granting certification. A minimum of three votes are necessary for the Court to grant certification. The Court may also grant motions for leave to appeal orders of the Appellate Division, if necessary, to prevent irreparable injury. Where irreparable harm cannot be demonstrated, a denial of leave to appeal is the rule rather than the exception. No rule addresses the number of votes necessary to grant a motion for leave to appeal. However, the general practice is to require four. The Court is made up of a chief justice and six associate justices all nominated by the Governor with advice and consent of the Senate. Five members of the Court constitute a quorum.

Appeals as of right may be taken to the Supreme Court from the Superior Court, Appellate Division in cases involving a question arising under the Constitutions of the United States or New Jersey, in cases where there is a dissent in the Appellate Division and, formerly, in capital cases. Appeals as of right where there is a dissent in the Appellate Division are limited to the issue or issues encompassed by the dissent. The Supreme Court hears arguments in Trenton. A party does not need to request oral argument before the Supreme Court. Unless otherwise ordered, all appeals are argued orally.

Superior Court, Appellate Division
The Superior Court, Appellate Division hears appeals as of right from the Law and Chancery Divisions and Tax Court. It does not hear appeals from municipal courts. It also hears appeals from the state administrative agencies. The Appellate Division may also grant leave to appeal from interlocutory orders of a trial court, but this power is highly discretionary. Most decisions of the court are unreported.

Prior to 1978, appeals in the Appellate Division were decided by a three-judge panel. By rule change, however, appeals are more commonly decided by two judges designated by the presiding judge of the particular part. A three-judge panel normally hears the matter if the appeal presents a question of public importance, special difficulty or is of potential precedential value. Under these circumstances, the presiding judge may assign a three-judge panel. The two judges to whom an appeal is submitted may also call in a third judge to participate, while a three-judge panel is mandatory if the two judges assigned to the appeal cannot agree on an outcome.

Presently, the Appellate Division consists of five parts. Each part is made up of a presiding judge and either three or four “side” judges. Appeals are not taken to a particular part, but rather are allocated to a particular part by the clerk of the Appellate Division. From time-to–time, judges from one part of the Appellate Division may be assigned to sit in another part or a special part designated for a particular purpose.

The Appellate Division hears arguments in Morristown, New Brunswick, Newark and Trenton in addition to other locations as may be designated. Oral argument in the Appellate Division is only granted if a request is timely filed with the clerk. The clerk of the Appellate Division maintains offices in Trenton.

Please contact me with any questions regarding preparing and filing any appeal. Counsel Press provides a full spectrum of appellate services. Through our local offices, we offer in-depth knowledge of rules and procedures in all state and federal appellate courts nationwide. Our Iselin, New Jersey office focuses on rule-compliant appellate filings in the New Jersey Supreme Court, Superior Court, Appellate Division, Federal Circuit Courts and U.S. Supreme Court.

Tagged: Appellate Practice, Litigation, Appellate Procedure, New Jersey Superior Court Appellate Division, Supreme Court of New Jersey