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How Does the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court Work?

The Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court is an intermediate appellate court. Its primary purpose is to relieve the state’s court of last resort’s workload, in this case, the New Jersey Supreme Court. Thus, the Appellate Division of the Superior Court hears appeals of rulings from the lower trial courts, the Tax Court, and New Jersey administrative agencies. The Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court has jurisdiction over all cases appealed from:

  • New Jersey Superior Courts
  • New Jersey Municipal Courts
  • New Jersey Tax Courts

Like the Supreme Court, the Appellate Court passes judgment based on judges’ interpretation of the New Jersey Constitution, the U.S. Constitution, Acts of the New Jersey Legislature, administrative regulations of the state’s governmental agencies, the body of common law, and treaties. Typically, the Appellate Division’s ruling overrides any outstanding order from a lower court, and the New Jersey Supreme Court can only overturn it.

The caseload of the Appellate Division is several times higher than that of the Supreme Court. According to an annual report from the New Jersey Judiciary, the Appellate Division processed 6624 appeals from 2017 to 2018. However, unlike the Supreme Court, the Appellate Division does not grant certiorari. Instead, litigants requiring the Appellate Division’s review of a trial court’s final judgment must obtain a court leave from that trial court. Leave of court involves filing a motion for leave to appeal, which may be granted and ruled upon immediately, granted and permitted to be processed for a later determination, or immediately denied.

Revising a case by the Appellate Division often requires attorneys to submit briefs and have a verbal argument before a judges’ panel. Then, the board issues their decisions in the form of written opinions published or unpublished. Published decisions set a precedent, and future cases may use the precedent as a reference. On the other hand, unpublished opinions are only applicable to the parties in that appeal. They cannot set a precedent.

The Appellate Division comprises 33 appellate judges selected by the Chief Justice from among the state’s Superior and Tax Court judges. Unlike the Supreme Court, where justices sit en banc, each of the Appellate Division’s eight parts includes four judges. A panel of two or three judges, chosen from the four judges’ pool, decides appeals filed in the Superior Appellate Court. The most senior judge in each part serves as the presiding judge. This judge oversees the case flow, assigns the writing of opinions, among other duties.

Per Article VI, Section VI, Paragraph 2, judges nominated for appellate judgeship must already be a member of the state bar for at least ten years. Furthermore, each judge is appointed to an initial term of seven years and may be reappointed to serve until age 70, which is the state’s constitutional age of retirement for a judge. Judges and judgeship candidates of the Appellate Division of the Superior Court must abide by the Canons of the New Jersey Code of Judicial Conduct.

Appellate Division Judges may also be removed in one of three ways under Article VI, Section VI, Paragraph 3 of the state’s constitution.

Removal from office: When an Appellate Judge violates the Code of Judicial Conduct, the majority of the New Jersey General Assembly, the Senate, and the governor may initiate removal. Removal from office involves filing a complaint with the Supreme Court, which begins a removal by setting up an advisory committee on judicial conduct. The committee will conduct an investigation and may dismiss the charges or recommend a formal hearing. If a judge is found guilty, they may be reprimanded, censured and suspended without pay, or removed from office.

Impeachment: The impeachment of a Justice happens when most of all members of the New Jersey General Assembly votes for impeachment. The impeachment also requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate.

Incapacitation: This when the Supreme Court certifies to the governor that a judge cannot substantially perform his/her judicial duties due to debilitating disease or ailment. The governor will appoint a three-person commission to confirm the incapacitation, and upon the commission’s recommendation, the governor may retire the justice from office.

The locations of the Appellate Division judges are located in Linwood, Jersey City, Morristown, New Brunswick, Newark, Trenton, West Long Branch, and Westmont. Interested individuals may view the directory of location and contact information of the chambers of the Appellate Division. The Central Office of the Appellate Division of the Superior Court is located at:

R. J. Hughes Justice Complex

25 West Market Street, P. O. Box 006

Trenton, New Jersey, 08625

Phone: (609) 815–2950

The verbal arguments are held at courthouses across the state, but only Trenton, Morristown, and Hackensack have courtrooms dedicated to the Appellate Division. Also, Appellate proceedings are held at the Newark and Camden campuses of Rutgers Law School.

To find case records, including published and unpublished opinions, interested individuals may visit the Rutgers Law School’s online archive. Alternatively, the searcher may use this resource to access dockets and case information, case calendars, opinions, and oral arguments. The timeline of an appellate case varies because the process for appeals can be elaborate. Also, litigants and their attorneys may need to present briefs, submit court records, and have an oral argument before a judges’ panel. Thus, an appellate case can take up to 18 months to resolve.

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