THE provincial courts of Read's time, based upon the English judicial system, were essentially the same as those prescribed by an ordinance of governor and council in 1704.1 Although now and then alterations were instituted by royal instructions, governor's ordinance, or provincial legislation, the general structure was maintained until the close of the colonial period.
Altogether there were seven groups of courts. The lowest were the justice's courts, held by justices of the peace, with jurisdiction in minor civil cases. Above these were the county courts of general sessions and of common pleas which met quarterly at the county seats. The courts of general sessions were conducted by the county judge and dealt with criminal cases; the courts of common pleas, which dealt with civil cases, had three presiding judges, a president and two others. Above the county courts was the supreme court of judicature, consisting of a chief justice and two associate justices, having jurisdiction in all pleas, both civil and criminal, which sat alternately at Perth Amboy and Burlington--two sessions of eight days each in a year. In addition to attending the regular sessions, the supreme court justices traveled the circuits once a year, holding general assizes and sessions of oyer and terminer and of common pleas at the county seats, assisted by the local justices of the peace.
In addition to these, there were four courts with which the governor was directly concerned. The vice-admiralty court, having jurisdiction in maritime affairs and authority to enforce statutes for regulating commerce, was headed by the governor as vice-admiral. In trying cases he had the assistance of commissioners of his selection, usually designated "com-____________________