A new pilot program proposed by Senate President Steve Sweeney and State Sen. James Beach (D-Voorhees) to regionalize the state’s municipal court system was signed into law today by Gov. Phil Murphy.
Sweeney and Beach said the program will “establish regional municipal courts in at least two counties and no fewer than five municipalities in each county.”
Most municipalities currently have their own municipal court system.
A 20202 New Jersey Supreme Court Working Group on Municipal Courts found that that three municipal courts had handled no cases whatsoever the entire year, and over 100 more handled fewer than 20 filings a week.
The courts have said such a fragmented system is highly cost-inefficient and can lead to increased burdens on poor people and people of color when municipal courts impose fees to fund themselves.
Under the new system to be tried in the pilot program, municipalities and counties can apply to the Administrative Office of the Courts in order to consolidate their smaller courts into larger regional courts.
“Through court consolidation, we will be able to leverage resources to save money, make the mechanics of our justice system run more smoothly, and make it more equitable and efficient for all,” said Sweeney, a longtime champion of consolidating local government services.
For now, the regionalized system will only be created in a minimum of two counties, and even in those counties it won’t begin until mid-2022.