Chief Justice Rabner Continues Push to Reform Municipal Court System

The New Jersey Statehouse and Capitol Building In Trenton

Chief Justice Rabner Continues Push to Reform Municipal Court System

While New Jersey’s municipal court system has made important strides in the fair
administration of justice, the effort to reform the Judiciary’s local courts continues,
Chief Justice Stuart Rabner said Friday.

Delivering his annual State of the Judiciary address before the New Jersey State
Bar Association in Atlantic City, Chief Justice Rabner said a forthcoming report
from a 38-member Supreme Court committee will propose recommendations to
assure that municipal courts serve as a fair and neutral forum for resolving
disputes.

“The one overarching concern, of course, is to separate a town’s need for general
operating revenue from the operation of the municipal courts. Otherwise, the
system can inappropriately place pressure on police officers to write tickets, and on
judges to impose fines and fees,” Chief Justice Rabner said. “There is no place for
either organization to be a party to raise funds for local government.”

Chief Justice Rabner detailed some of the improvements the Judiciary made to the
municipal court system in recent years “by shining a light on the problem and
following up on it.”

For example, the Supreme Court placed a cap on maximum penalties for failure to
appear or failure to pay; municipal courts reduced the issuance of contempt fines
by 60 percent following an Administrative Office of the Courts review; and the
Supreme Court dismissed thousands of old warrants for low-level offenses so that
“minor matters don’t hang over people’s lives for decades,” Chief Justice Rabner
said.

Areas that still need to be addressed, Rabner said, include improvements to the
appointment process for municipal court judges and the consolidation of municipal
courts.

“New Jersey’s municipal court system is strong. It’s guided by strong leaders and
able judges whose mission is to administer justice, and that is what they do,” Chief
Justice Rabner said. “Working together, we can make the system even stronger.”

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