New Jersey Court Records
How do New Jersey Courts work?
The Supreme Court acts as the highest legal authority in the state of New Jersey. This gives it the power to oversee and review any decision made by the Court of Appeals, due to the state’s tier system. The Supreme Court may weigh in on any legal questions, conflicts, and precedents. However, the Court of Appeals has powers of its own in New Jersey, as it is able to carry out a similar function over the lower courts, as long as one party appeals a decision. These lesser courts are made up of the 12 trial or superior courts across New Jersey’s 21 counties. Other tiers of court include the Appellate Division, Local Courts, Tax Court, and Municipal Courts.
Civil Cases and Small Claims
Civil cases and small claims cases in New Jersey are structured very differently, from the type of case heard to the amount of money claimed. Civil courts in New Jersey deal with cases in which the petitioner is seeking at least $175,000. There are nearly 175,000 of these claims each and every year across the state. However, non-monetary cases can also be heard within civil courts, including disputes over name changes, property, and restraining orders. On the other hand, the small claims courts in New Jersey deal with cases in which the claimant is looking for $3,000 or under, or $5,000 for security deposit claims. Nearly 100,000 of these claims cases are filed annually across New Jersey. Some examples of small claims cases may include disputes over deposits, warranties, repairs, loans, damages, and more. The small claims court also has the power to order a defendant into paying a fee.
Appeals and court limits
The appeals processes and the court limits also differ across small claims courts and civil courts in New Jersey. There is a claim filing fee of between $30 and $100 for small claims cases in the state, after which point each part is given 30-70 days to complete their respective case. On the other hand, civil court charges a filing fee of between $180 and $320 per claim, after which each party is given up to 120 days to complete their case. Pretrial discovery is allowed in civil courts, but not in any small claims cases. Either party can also appeal a decision made in civil court, whereas only the defendant or sued party may appeal a decision in the small claims court. A person may hire a lawyer to represent them and file papers on their behalf in civil courts in New Jersey, but neither are allowed in small claims courts.
Why are court records public?
The New Jersey Open Public Records Act was introduced in 1995, with the latest amendments coming in 2002. This Act was brought in to ensure that all state residents had the fundamental right to access any public record they please. Any record held by the local or state government can be accessed and copied, as long as another law does not prohibit it. This promotes a sense of transparency between the public and their government, as well as safeguarding government accountability.
To access records:
R.J. Hughes Justice Complex
Supreme Court Clerk's Office
P.O. Box 970
Trenton, NJ 08625-0970
Monday - Friday: 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.