On appeal from a judgment of the Monmouth County Circuit Court.
For the appellants, Ira J. Katchen.
For the respondent, Samuel L. Epstein and Harry Edelson.
Before Brogan, Chief Justice, and Justices Donges and Porter.
The opinion of the court was delivered by
DONGES, J. Prosecutor-respondent was sued in the Small Cause Court, holden by a justice of the peace in the borough of Monmouth Beach, in the county of Monmouth, and had judgment rendered against him in the sum of $13.40 damages and $6.90 costs. He entered a special appearance therein and challenged the jurisdiction of the court on the ground that the defendant was a resident of Neptune township, which is within the jurisdiction of the District Court for the First Judicial District of Monmouth county (Pamph. L. 1913, p. 36; R.S. 2:8-4), and that service was made upon him in said township of Neptune. The justice of the peace was a resident of and held his court in the borough of Monmouth Beach, which is within the jurisdiction of the District Court for the Second Judicial District of Monmouth county. Pamph. L. 1913, p. 67; R.S. 2:8-4.
After judgment, certiorari was allowed by Judge Palmer, sitting in the Monmouth County Circuit Court, to review the proceedings. R.S. 2:33-131, 135; Dufford v. Decue, 31 N.J.L. 302.
Judge Palmer concluded that the justice was without jurisdiction to entertain the case, relying upon Keating v. Phillips, 16 N.J. Mis. R. 335; 199 A. 721.
This appeal raises the question of the constitutionality of Pamph. L. 1921, p. 689, now R.S. 2:8-47, which was an amendment of section 31 of the District Court act, which section originally provided that no justice of the peace should have jurisdiction over any cause cognizable before a District Court where the defendant or the justice resided within any city or judicial district where a District Court was established. The amendment provided that, in judicial districts in counties bordering on the Atlantic ocean, a justice of the peace or Small Cause Court shall have jurisdiction in every such District Court district "in every suit of a civil nature where the debt, balance, damages or other matter in dispute does not exceed, exclusive of costs, the sum on fifty dollars as if there were no judicial district in said county."
It is urged that the provision in question violates article IV, section VII, paragraph 11 of the constitution, which provides: "The Legislature shall not pass private, local or special laws in any of the following enumerated cases, that is to say: Regulating the internal affairs of towns and counties, appointing local offices or commissions to regulate municipal affairs."
In Central Railroad Co. v. State Board of Assessors, 48 N.J.L. 1, Chief Justice Beasley, speaking for this court, said:
"This discrimination between general and special statutes, as applied to a subject-matter of this kind, is not a new thing to this court. It has long been a recognized doctrine with us, forming the basis of many decisions. When the case of Parsons v. Van Riper was first before the court, the matter was carefully considered. The inquiry in that instance was with respect to the effect of that provision of the amended constitution ...