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Knox v. Krause

Decided: July 22, 1977.

MICHAEL O. KNOX, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WILLIAM E. KRAUSE, CLERK OF SOMERSET COUNTY DISTRICT COURT, DEFENDANT



Lucas, J.c.c., Temporarily Assigned.

Lucas

This is an action in lieu of prerogative writs seeking an order requiring defendant Clerk of the Somerset County District Court to accept and file a disorderly persons complaint.

The facts are not in dispute. On or about August 6, 1975 plaintiff Michael O. Knox appeared at the office of defendant William E. Krause, Clerk of the Somerset County District Court, with Complaint No. S-373778, charging a violation of N.J.S.A. 2A:170-26. Krause was requested to administer the oath to Knox, witness his signature and file the complaint. Krause refused on the grounds that the county

district court does not have jurisdiction to hear disorderly persons offenses.

Plaintiff contends essentially that N.J.S.A. 2A:6-37 confers jurisdiction upon the county district courts, concurrent with that of the municipal courts, to hear disorderly persons matters and mandates the exercise of said concurrent jurisdiction. Counsel for defendant have not submitted a brief, nor did they present any defense at the hearing in this matter. However, defendant's pretrial memorandum states the position that the Somerset County District Court has never exercised its criminal jurisdiction and said exercise has never been approved by the Chief Justice of our Supreme Court.

The Constitution of New Jersey vests in the Legislature the authority to establish the jurisdiction of the county district court. N.J. Const. (1947); Art. VI, ยง I par. 1:

The judicial power shall be vested in a Supreme Court, a Superior Court, County Courts and inferior courts of limited jurisdiction. The inferior courts and their jurisdiction may from time to time be established, altered or abolished by law.

As the Appellate Division held in Andriola v. Galloping Hills Shopping Center, Inc. , 93 N.J. Super. 196 (App. Div. 1966):

The county district courts are inferior courts of limited jurisdiction, which the Legislature may establish, alter, or abolish in its discretion as the public good may require. [at 199]

The Legislature has defined the subject matter jurisdiction of the county district courts in N.J.S.A. 2A:6-34 et seq. The court is concerned here with N.J.S.A. 2A:6-37 through N.J.S.A. 2A:6-40, which spell out the criminal jurisdiction of the county district courts.

N.J.S.A. 2A:6-37 provides:

County district courts shall have and exercise concurrently with the municipal courts the criminal jurisdiction ...


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