The New Jersey Judiciary recently put the Automated Case Management System (ACMS), its computerized civil case index, on-line. Previously, anyone who wished to access this index needed to travel to his or her county’s courthouse and use a public access terminal there.

To access the system, go to the Judiciary’s main site here and navigate to “Attorneys” and then “Civil Case Public Access.”  Or, you can try going directly to this link.  Then enter the CAPTCHA code and you can begin your search, either by party name, docket number or you can access archived cases.

(NOTE: You may have to configure your browser to allow pop-ups.)

While the index can serve several uses, I’ll go through an example of how it might help someone who wants to know more about lawsuits filed against municipalities in Hunterdon County.

After you log in to the main screen, enter “Borough of” in the “Last Name” box and click on “party inquiry.” What you will get is a list of every non-archived court case in which the name of one of the parties begins with “Borough of” Here’s a typical entry:

Party name: Borough of Belmar
Party#: 1
Cou: MON
Docket Number: LT-001024-99
Date Disposed: 03/12/1999

The “Party#” field is the position of the party in the lawsuit. For example, in the suit of “John Doe v. Mary Smith and Jane Roe” John would be “Party#” 1, Mary would be 2 and Jane would be 3. So, the fact that the Borough of Belmar is listed as Party# 1 almost certainly means that it is the plaintiff.

“Cou” means “County” which shows that the case was filed in Monmouth County.

The docket number “LT-001024-99” means that it is the 1024th Landlord Tenant case (LT) filed in Monmouth County in 1999.

The “Date Disposed” field means that the case terminated on March 12, 1999.

Generally, I’m not very interested in Landlord tenant cases. Nor am I generally interested in cases with docket numbers that start with “DC” (Special Civil Part–cases where less than $15,000 in damages are claimed); or “SC” (Small Claims — cases where less than $3,000 in damages are claimed).

So, to sort out the “LT” “DC” and “SC” cases (along with “C” (Chancery) and “F” (Foreclosure) cases), I typically select “Law Civil” in the “Court” drop-down box.  Then, to narrow the cases to those filed in Hunterdon County, I select “Hunterdon” in the “County drop down box and hit “new search.”  Of course, you can choose any county or leave the county field blank of you want the ACMS to report cases from all counties.

If you follow these steps, you should now have a list of all the Law Division cases filed in Hunterdon County by or against a party whose name begins with “Borough of.”

Note: This article was last updated on November 7, 2017.  Since cases open and close constantly, the example I am about to give may not be available when you access the system.

If you look at the case list, you’ll see one in which the “Borough of High Bridge” is the 2nd party to the case. You’ll also see that the docket number is HNT-L-000003-17 and that the case hasn’t yet been disposed of.

Click the “radio button” in the left column and click “Case Party List.” You’ll see that a plaintiff named Linda Mills sued several defendants, including the High Bridge Police Department.

Now, click on the little icon that looks like a magnifying glass with five dots in it and then click the “Locate by Docket” tab. The HNT-L-000003-17 docket number should already be plugged in, so hit “Case Document List” to see the types of documents that were filed in the case.  At the time of this writing, the documents show that the lawsuit was filed on January 5, 2017, that the defendants filed an answer on April 12, 2017 and that the matter was referred to mediation on August 3, 2017.

If you click the left-arrow icon and then “Case Detail” you’ll see that it’s a “civil rights” case.

There is no currently no way for the public to see the actual documents filed in the case on-line. If you are interested in knowing exactly why Mills sued, you’d have to contact the courthouse in Flemington to review the file or get a copy of the file or (easier) send an OPRA request to High Bridge and ask for the civil complaint filed in the case along with any other documents you would like to see.

I hope you find this helpful.

NOTE1: The court enters the parties to lawsuits exactly how they are listed on the suit’s filing. So, if you’re interested in learning about lawsuits against the Borough of High Bridge, you’d have to search “High Bridge Borough” as well as “Borough of High Bridge” or perhaps even “Boro of High Bridge.”

NOTE2: This system only reveal filings in state court (i.e. the New Jersey Superior Court) not those filed in federal court. To access federal court filings, you could try a free site such here or establish an account at the official government site here.

Chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project. Please send all comments to [email protected]