CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — Cape May County Superior Court Judge Raymond Batten, a longtime criminal court judge, has been named the new presiding judge of general equity for Atlantic and Cape May counties.

The move will leave Cape May County with just one Criminal Division judge — Superior Court Judge Patricia Wild. Trial Court Administrator Howard Berchtold said other judges from Atlantic County will help manage the county’s caseload.

“But we hope that the vacancy gets filled as quickly as possible,” Berchtold said.

In the past, when one of the criminal judges moved to a new position, the vacancy has been left open for a year or more.

Currently, Cape May County has two judges in the Criminal Division, two in the Family Division and one in the Civil Division.

Batten, 58, who has served as a criminal court judge since 2002, will move to new chambers in Mays Landing effective March 1. He replaces Superior Court Judge William Todd, who is retiring.

“We’re really proud of (Batten),” Berchtold said, expressing the sentiments of Assignment Judge Julio Mendez.

Berchtold added that “it has been some time” since a Cape May County judge held the presiding judge post of general equity for the Atlantic-Cape May vicinage.

Batten will be handling complex civil litigation of a nonmonetary nature. The cases could involve anything from a major business dissolution to a family dispute over the removal of a feeding tube for someone who is hospitalized.

Batten, who first became a Superior Court judge in October 1992, welcomed the move.

“There is such a rich history in the vicinage as relates to general equity presiding judges,” Batten said.

While he said he will miss the challenges and importance of criminal cases, he welcomed the new opportunity.

“They’re very unique cases. They’re very challenging cases,” he said.

Berchtold said the county’s caseload requires two criminal judges. In the first six months of the 2012 court year, 604 new criminal cases were filed. During the same period in 2011, 520 cases were filed.

The statewide average for the number of resolutions for the six months of the 2012 court year was 185. Cape May County judges averaged exactly that.

“Having five judges in Cape May County is right where we need to be,” Berchtold said.

State Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, said no plans had yet been made to replace Batten, but “we’re going to fill the void.

Meanwhile, Batten said the change would be good for the county and the court.

“Rotation is good for the judicial process. It enables judges to keep fresh in their subject matter,” Batten said.

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