Law Division: Civil Part and Special Civil Part Chancery Division: General EquityThe Superior Court Civil Division is composed of the Law Division, the Special Civil Part and Chancery Division, General Equity Part.
The Law Division is a court of general jurisdiction. There is no monetary limit to the matters filed in the Law Division. The Civil Part handles suits seeking money damages or other relief by individuals or corporate litigants. There is no limit on the amount of damages that may be sought in this court and the cases range from slip and falls to complex contract and/or tort (personal injury) matters.
Civil part offers a large array of Complimentary Dispute Resolution (CDR) options, which are available to attorneys and litigants as they search for timely and economical methods to resolve disputes. These programs include:
Statutory Arbitration for automobile, personal injury and contract cases.
In accordance with New Jersey Court Rule 4:21A, statutory arbitration is a mandatory process in which a dispute is presented to an experienced, neutral attorney with at least seven years litigation experience in the related field. Arbitrators accept sworn testimony from the parties, listen to the arguments of counsel, review the evidence and render a decision as to the value of the case. These hearings rarely last longer than an hour and are less formal than a traditional court proceeding. The arbitrator's decision is non-binding and allows attorneys and clients the opportunity to request a trial instead of accepting the award recommendation made at the hearing.
Voluntary Binding Arbitration for verbal threshold cases.
Voluntary Binding Arbitration is solely for automobile cases with verbal threshold insurance agreements. Before the commencement of the hearing, a consent order is entered by the court dismissing the case. It also records the agreement of attorneys and parties to abide by the outcome. The attorneys select one plaintiff and one defense oriented arbitrator for the hearing. A judge serves as the third arbitrator and only enters into the decision making process if the two pre-selected arbitrators cannot agree on the outcome. A Statement of Facts must be submitted to the hearing officers in advance of the hearing date. On the hearing date, testimony is taken from the parties, evidence is reviewed and limited argument is heard from counsel. An award is rendered at the conclusion of the hearing. This award is considered binding and the judge may sign an order for judgment. The decision is non-appealable.
Mediation is a process in which a neutral third party facilitates negotiations among parties to help them reach a mutually acceptable settlement. The mediator does not access liability nor offer a final decision as to the validity of the claim. Their sole purpose is to assist the parties in resolving their dispute in a way that satisfies everybody. The mediator has 90 days to conclude the hearing from date of referral. They must hold an organizational telephone conference, review documentation and conduct one or many mediation sessions before reporting back to the court whether the case has been resolved or needs further intervention by the court. The first three hours of the mediation process is provided at no cost. Any additional time is a rate and agreed upon in advance by the parties and the mediator. Cases not resolved through mediation are referred to other CDR programs or trial.
Other CDR Programs
Attorneys and litigants may also avail themselves to several other less formal CDR programs in Morris County. They include Attorney/Carrier Settlement Conferences and Summary Jury Trials. All offer dispute resolution options that may be less costly and timelier than traditional court proceedings.
Special Civil Part
The Special Civil Part of the Law Division is a court of limited jurisdiction that is divided into three subsections: Special Civil, Small Claims and Landlord Tenant.
Special Civil is considered the most complex subsection the Special Civil Part. The Special Civil Part handles cases where the total amount of demand does not exceed $15,000. The cases are normally of a more complicated nature, require an attorney for corporate litigants and an answer to the complaint must be filed before trial listing. The majority of the matters in this section are breach of contract, unpaid credit card debts or damage to automobiles. The option of jury trial exists, but requires an additional fee. Mediation of these disputes is mandatory and is scheduled on the day of trial before trial commences.
The Small Claims subsection has a statutory limitation for award of $3,000. It recognizes complaints for breach of contract, property damage in automobile accidents, bad checks and return of security deposits and back rent in landlord/tenant matters. This court provides a forum in which to have a case heard in an economical manner without the aid of an attorney. It is a non-jury court and no answer to the complaint is required before trial listing. Mediation of these disputes is mandatory and is scheduled on the day of trial before trial commences.
The Landlord/Tenant subsection is for the resolution of differences between property owners and those that rent or lease their property. Determinations in tenancy matters are limited to whether a tenant may be removed from the rental premises. A landlord may file a complaint for failure to pay rent, habitual late payment of rent, destruction or misuse of property, continued disorderly conduct, violation of lease of rental agreement rules and/or regulations and tenant's conviction of a drug offense. Sole property owners may appear pro se in court without an attorney. Business entities, such as corporations, are required by the court to retain an attorney to represent them at all hearings. The only exception is partners in general partnerships who may file papers and appear pro se. A LT action must be filed in the county in which the rental premises are located. All cases are non-jury and are heard within 2-3 weeks of filing. No answer is required before trial listing. Mediation of these disputes is mandatory and is scheduled on the day of trial before trial commences.
Civil cases in which monetary damages are not being sought are heard in the General Equity Division of Superior Court. General Equity Part handles claims for non-monetary relief, such as labor injunctions, foreclosures and dissolution of a corporation or partnership. General Equity cases are tried by a judge without a jury.