The Special Civil Part is a unit of the New Jersey Superior Court, Law Division. It was created in 1983 by the New Jersey Supreme Court as the successor to the County District Courts that had been established by the Legislature in each of the 21 counties in 1948. The County District Court was itself the product of a consolidation of various courts (some of which date back to 1675) realized by the adoption of the State's new constitution in 1947. The creation of the Special Civil Part was a continuation of this consolidation process. When the statute abolishing the County District Courts took effect in 1983, the Supreme Court, acting on a joint recommendation of its Civil Practice Committee and County District Court Committee, issued an order transferring all of the old court's cases, judges and staff to the newly created Special Civil Part in the Law Division of the Superior Court in each county.
The three primary kinds of cases filed in the Special Civil Part include the following:
Civil actions ("DC" docket), such as unpaid credit card debt, medical bills, unpaid rent or damage to automobiles or property, where the amount involved is $15,000 or less. There are about 250,000 of these cases filed per year in New Jersey. If you believe you are entitled to damages greater than $15,000, but still wish to sue in Special Civil, you give up the right to recover any money over $15,000. The additional money cannot be claimed later in a separate lawsuit.
Small claims ("SC" docket), are civil cases involving $3,000 or less in claimed damages and about 40,000 of these cases are filed in New Jersey per year. Although lawyers can appear, most of these cases involve pro se litigants only. Note, a claim for $5,000 or less can be filed in the Small Claims Section of the Special Civil Part if it includes an action for the return all or part of a security deposit.
Landlord/tenant actions ("LT" docket), in which the landlord seeks possession of the leased premises because the tenant has allegedly broken the lease by failing to pay the rent, violated other lease provisions, alleged habitual lateness in the payment of rent, disturbing other tenants, etc. About 173,000 of these cases are filed each year in New Jersey by housing authorities, specialized law firms or pro se landlords.