HUNTERDON ASSEMBLYMAN Peterson bill consolidating municipal courts would help implement bail reform

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Assemblyman Erik Peterson introduced legislation Monday to give New Jersey counties the ability to consolidate municipal courts at the county level.  A- 4418 provides each county the option to consolidate a municipal court into the county courthouse.

“This bill allows counties to utilize pre-existing court security, infrastructure, and facilities while streamlining municipal court proceedings.  Cost increases at the county level would be off-set by redirecting municipal court revenue to the county treasury,” said Peterson.  “We are giving the county the power to make this decision.  Efficiency can be achieved, as we reduce the number of judges, prosecutors and public defenders while using the newly created county-municipal court to help the new pre-trial release and detention hearings – giving the assignment judge more resources and flexibility.”

The bill provides for county freeholders to consolidate municipal court functions into county courthouses, with a separately nominated and appointed county-municipal court judge, while the county prosecutor’s office would assume jurisdiction over municipal courts.  “Creative public policy ideas like this could help certain counties avoid the cost of additional Superior Court judges and prosecutors to comply with the bail reform provisions going into effect in a few weeks.   Before people sign onto the Democrat-backed plan to spend $10 million on 20 new judges, we should start enacting cost-savings reforms like this.”

Assemblyman Peterson points to the benefits of consolidation, including: greater flexibility in scheduling traffic court, streamlining court dockets and pre-trail hearings, and eliminating a municipalities’ burden to provide state approved facilities, security, and staffing.

“The financial burden of a municipal court often has a big impact on a small town, and paying for a judge, prosecutor and public defender, while meeting the ever changing requirements for a secure court facility that may only be used five or 10 hours a month, is unsustainable and puts pressure on the towns to raise court revenue to pay for these costs.  Put plainly, we need creative ways to save our towns’ money without raising taxes or looking to law enforcement for revenue.”