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In re Supervision and Assignment of Petit Jury Panels

Decided: May 12, 1971.

IN THE MATTER OF THE SUPERVISION AND ASSIGNMENT OF THE PETIT JURY PANELS IN ESSEX COUNTY, NEW JERSEY


Giuliano, A.j.s.c.

Giuliano

This is an administrative proceeding initiated by order of the court directing John F. Cryan, Sheriff of Essex County, to show cause why he should not be permanently enjoined from interfering with the exercise by the Court of its duties and responsibilities to supervise petit jurors and petit jury panels and to assign petit jury panels for trials to the Superior Court, the Essex County Court and the Essex County District Court. On the return day of the order leave was granted to the Essex County Bar Association, upon its application made on proper notice, to submit its brief and be heard in the matter amicus curiae.

The circumstances which impelled the issuance of the Order are set forth in the exhibits annexed thereto. By its Order of February 3, 1971 the court, pursuant to R. 1:33-3(b), appointed and designated William Williams, Senior Court Clerk, as Assistant Assignment Clerk-Civil, "to assist the Assignment Judge of Essex County in summoning and supervising the daily attendance of the petit jurors and the assigning of petit jurors required for trials by the Superior Court, the Essex County Court and the Essex County District Court, effective March 1, 1971." By letter of April 2, 1971 the sheriff asserted that effective April 5, 1971 he was assigning William K. McTague as Jury Control Supervisor. By letter of April 5, 1971 the court responded, informing the sheriff, among other things, that "the matter of supervision of the jury system in this County rests exclusively with" the assignment judge, exercised by him directly or through personnel assigned by him for that purpose; and that the court "cannot and will not permit interference by

anyone with the jury system in this County." By an office memorandum of April 19, 1971 the sheriff directed that "Effective immediately Frank Nigro will be in charge of JURY CONTROL."

The sheriff contends that he has certain "powers and duties with respect to petit jurors and jury panels as are mandated by law to his office as an elected constitutional officer of the State." Any suggestion that the mere mentioning of the office of sheriff in the State Constitution precludes the Legislature from altering the duties of sheriffs was firmly laid to rest 60 years ago by the former Court of Errors and Appeals in State v. De Lorenzo , 81 N.J.L. 613 (1911). One of the contentions made in that case was that since the Constitution*fn1 provided that "sheriffs * * * shall be elected by the people of their respective counties," the implication was "that the attributes and faculties of the office of sheriff as they existed at the time of the adoption of the constitution are, by this mention of the office in the constitution, crystalized and rendered immune from alteration or subtraction by the legislature." At the time, this contention had support in a decision of the former Supreme Court in the case of Virtue v. Freeholders of Essex , 67 N.J.L. 139 (Sup. Ct. 1901). In firmly rejecting that contention and in disapproving the decision in Virtue , the court in De Lorenzo , unanimously held that the duties of sheriffs are "always subject to legislative change" (81 N.J.L. at 622).

Legislative reform to eliminate political influence and control over the jury system was strongly urged by Governor Woodrow Wilson in his Second Annual Message to the Legislature on January 14, 1913.*fn2 Although a number of legislative

modifications in the approach to the jury system followed, it was not until the enactment of L. 953, c. 240, that the full administration of the jury system was vested in the court.

The situation as it existed following the adoption of L. 1929, c. 17, is referred to in the opinion of the former Court of Errors and Appeals in State v. Profita , 114 N.J.L. 334, 340 (1935), as follows:

By chapter 20 of the Special Session of 1913 (Pamph. L. 1913, p. 828), the legislature took from the sheriff, by revision of the subject-matter, the right to act alone in selecting juries and provided that a citizen should be appointed by the chancellor to be designated a commissioner of juries and that he and the sheriff should constitute "the commissioners of juries." The two-man commission still endures, the appointing of the citizen commissioner having been transferred by amendment (Pamph. L. 1929, ch. 17), from the chancellor to the governor acting with the advice and consent of the senate. * * *

By L. 1934, c. 111, the appointing of the "citizen commissioner" was vested in the Supreme Court Justice presiding in the county. Further modification occurred in 1944. By L. 1944, c. 96 the Legislature vested in the Governor, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, the power to appoint in each county "two citizens, resident therein who shall not be members of the same political party, who shall constitute and be designated as 'commissioners of juries,' hereinafter designated jury commissioners, of the county."

In 1953 the appointing of the two citizen commissioners was transferred by amendment (L. 1953, c. 240, ยง 1; N.J.S.A. 2A:68-1) from the Governor to the Supreme Court.

The clear intent of the Legislature in enacting this legislation is set forth in the Statement appended to Assembly Bill 2 of 1953 which became L. 1953, ...


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