By Mike Mathis
JT Briefing Editor
The Supreme Court sat in Newark on Feb. 2 to celebrate the opening of appellate division chambers in the city and to bring the high court’s proceedings to the public.
It was just the third time since the adoption of the 1947 New Jersey constitution that established the modern Supreme Court that the court heard arguments outside of Trenton.
The most recent was last March, when the seven justices heard three cases in a new mock trial courtroom at Rutgers School of Law-Camden. The first time was in 1975, when a malfunctioning water treatment plant in Trenton forced the justices to relocate to Morristown.
The relocation of appellate chambers to Newark from Hackensack and Springfield reinforces Newark as a legal center. The city had been home to appellate division chambers from the 1950s into the 1980s.
“Then and now, Newark has been one of the premier legal centers not just in our state, but in the nation,” Chief Justice Stuart Rabner said at the ceremony marking the opening of the new courtroom before the start of arguments in three cases.
The appellate chambers occupy several floors in the Essex County LeRoy F. Smith Public Safety Building at the Essex County Hall of Records Complex. The judges will utilize a newly refurbished courtroom in the Essex County Veterans Courthouse when court is in session.
A host of local, county and state dignitaries attended the opening ceremony. Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr., whose office was instrumental in enhancing the courthouse complex, and Judge Glenn A. Grant, acting administrative director of the courts who also sat on the bench in Essex County, led tours of the new facility.
Essex County has made numerous improvements to the government complex, including upgrading offices and juror assembly areas, constructing a new public entranceway and parking garage and redeveloping plazas and open spaces.
“I can’t thank you enough for being our partner here,” DiVincenzo told the court.
Seating in the courtroom was reserved for students from Rutgers School of Law—Newark and Seton Hall University School of Law to observe the arguments. An overflow room on the first floor allowed attorneys and members of the public to watch the arguments live.
The court met with law students for a question-and-answer session after the arguments.