Many different kinds of cases are decided in Superior Court. Examples include cases involving serious crimes, eviction, landlord-tenant disputes, name changes, clearing (expunging) a criminal record, domestic violence, custody, child support, divorce, collection of unpaid bills, foreclosure, guardianship, adoption and DCP&P (formerly DYFS). Because so many different kinds of cases are decided in Superior Court, this court is divided into different divisions and parts.
Here is a chart of the New Jersey State Court system:
If you feel that your case was wrongly decided by the New Jersey Superior Court or by a New Jersey administrative agency, you may file an appeal with the Appellate Division of the Superior Court. The Appellate Division of the Superior Court is one place in the New Jersey legal system where cases from both the court system and the administrative law system may be considered. In the Appellate Division, each case is considered by at least two and more often three judges at the same time. The judges do not hear testimony from witnesses. They consider only a written record of the trial in the Superior Court or the administrative hearing. Appellate Division judges may also consider other written materials, such as orders or decisions by the Superior Court or Administrative Law judges.
The Appellate Division is organized into Parts. Each part is made up of a group of four or five appellate court judges designated by a letter, such as Part A, Part B, etc. The judges of the Appellate Division decide cases in different parts of the state. In addition, each appellate court judge also has private chambers, an office, usually in the county where he or she lives. Emergent (emergency or last minute) appeals may be heard by the appellate court judge who has been assigned emergent duty. Emergent appeals are often heard in the judge’s private chambers. See Appellate Division (from the New Jersey Judiciary) for more information.
In general, the Chancery Division handles cases where the person suing is asking for something other than money. Examples include foreclosure on a mortgage, a divorce, or the appointment of a guardian for an incapacitated person. The Chancery Division has three parts: Family Part, Probate Part and General Equity Part. Cases from the Chancery Division may also be appealed to the Appellate Division of the Superior Court.
Chancery Division, Family Part
All civil actions in which the principal claim arises out of a family or family-type relationship are heard in the Family Part of the Chancery Division. This includes cases involving divorce, adoption, custody, visitation, domestic violence, child neglect and abuse, and juvenile matters.
Chancery Division, Probate Part
The Surrogate’s Court is a part of the probate court system. Matters heard in the Probate Part include challenges to wills, appointments of administrators or conservators, requests for declarations of incapacity and appointment of guardians. The Surrogate is an elected position. Sometimes the Surrogate acts as a judge, reviewing certain kinds of cases without giving them to a judge, and sometimes he acts as a clerk, accepting papers that are filed for the probate court and organizing them for the judge who will hear them.
A Special Note About Adoption Cases
Adoption complaints are filed with the Surrogate but are decided by a judge in the Family Part. The Surrogate acts as a clerk for adoption cases, accepting papers that are filed, organizing and managing them. The Surrogate then passes the adoption cases back to the Family Part of the Chancery Division, where they are decided by a Family Part judge.
Chancery Division, General Equity Part
All civil actions where the person suing is not asking for money and the case does not involve a family–type dispute or a probate subject, such as a challenge to a will or a request for the appointment of a guardian, are decided in the General Equity Part of the Chancery Division. Examples include foreclosure cases and cases involving the appointment of a special Medical Guardian for a person who cannot make his or her own medical decisions. (Note: this differs from a case asking for the appointment of a guardian for an incapacitated person, which is filed and decided in the Probate Part of the Chancery Division.)
Law Division, Civil Part
The Law Division, Civil Part, of the Superior Court decides cases dealing with a wide variety of subjects, including:
Collection of unpaid bills,
Clearing a criminal record,
Money damages from negligence (for example, breach of a duty owed to a person by a professional such as a doctor), and
An injury to a person or property (called a tort), whether intentionally or unintentionally (negligently).
The Law Division, Civil Part also hears any other type of lawsuit involving money damages of more than $15,000.
Law Division, Special Civil Part
This court decides the following types of cases:
Cases for return of a security deposit in an amount that is less than $15,000 but more than $5,000.
Cases involving money damages of less than $15,000 but more than $3,000. This includes causes for eviction, unpaid rent, and collection of unpaid bills.
Law Division, Special Civil Part, Small Claims Section
The Small Claims Section decides cases where the person suing wants less than $3,000. This includes cases for unpaid rent, unpaid bills, and damages to property.
Special Exception to Limit of $3,000 for Small Claims Cases.
There is an exception to the dollar limit of $3,000 for cases filed in the Special Civil Part, Small Claims Section for cases where a tenant is asking a landlord to return his or her security deposit. In security deposit cases, the tenant may ask for up to $5,000.
See Civil Practice Division (from the New Jersey Judiciary) for more information. Cases may be appealed from the Law Division to the Appellate Division of the Superior Court.
Law Division, Special Civil Part, Landlord/Tenant Section
Almost all of the cases heard in this section are filed by landlords seeking to evict their tenants. Called “Summary Dispossess” proceedings, these eviction cases are scheduled and decided much more quickly than any other civil matters in the state court system.
Law Division, Criminal Part
The Law Division also has a criminal part, which hears cases where a person is accused of a serious crime. Serious crimes are those for which the defendant, if found guilty, will go to prison or jail for a longer period of time than if found guilty of a disorderly person’s offense, which is a more minor type of offense and is usually decided in municipal court. Appeals from some municipal court decisions are also heard in the Criminal Part of the Law Division of the Superior Court.
The Tax Court handles matters relating to state tax laws or regulations. The Tax Court also reviews local property tax assessments. If tax questions come up in a case filed in another Division or Part of the Superior Court, that case may be transferred to the Tax Court.
This information last reviewed: Jul 13, 2020