New Jersey Superior Courts
New Jersey Superior Courts are the trial courts in New Jersey. There is a Superior Court in each of the state's 21 counties, and approximately 360 Superior Court trial judges across the state. Superior Courts are divided into five main types: Criminal cases, civil cases, family cases and tax cases. Cases from any of these trial courts may be appealed in the Appellate Division, and Superior Court appellate decisions may be appealed to the Supreme Court.
Superior Court vicinages
Superior court judges
Judges for the New Jersey Superior Courts are selected via the gubernatorial appointment of judges method. They serve for a seven year term, after which they become eligible for reappointment. If reappointed and reconfirmed by the Senate, the judges receive tenure, "which allows them to remain in their posts until they reach the age of 70".
In New Jersey, all state judges are required to retire once they reach the age of 70. However, they are often recalled to serve temporary assignments. Assignments for recall judges are for a specific vicinage and range from a few months to a few years. As of June 2013, there were 73 recalled judges serving on benches across the state. The use of recall judges has risen in the last few years; the rise has been primiarily "fueled by backlogged dockets and a political logjam slow to produce new appointments." Judge Peter V. Ryan said the recall system allows the judiciary to contimue to operate in the current climate.
Superior court divisions
"Criminal cases are those in which a defendant is accused of a serious crime, such as robbery, theft, drug possession or murder." Most criminal cases are heard by a 12 member jury trial, though some are resolved via plea bargain.
"Civil lawsuits are cases in which a plaintiff claims that he or she has been injured by the actions of the defendant." Most civil cases are heard by a 6 member jury, though some cases are settled out-of-court.
"Family cases are civil cases in which the disputes involve children, spouses or domestic partners. Examples of family cases are those involving divorce, adoption, juvenile delinquency, child abuse, child support, and domestic violence. Most cases in the Family Court are decided by a judge instead of a jury."
"Tax Court judges review the decisions of county boards of taxation, which determine how much a property should be taxed. Tax Court judges also review the decisions of the State Division of Taxation on such matters as the state income tax, sales tax and business tax. There are 12 Tax Court judges in New Jersey."
Decisions of the other four Superior Court divisions may be appealed to the Superior Court Appellate Division. "In the Appellate Division, cases are reviewed and decided by panels of two or three judges.There are no juries or witnesses in Appellate Division cases, and no new evidence is considered. Instead, lawyers make their legal arguments to the judges."