Bill updating regional municipal court jurisdiction clears two Assembly committees

Bill updating regional municipal court jurisdiction clears two Assembly committees

TRENTON, N.J. – Regional municipal courts will no longer have to hear certain cases originating outside participating municipalities under a bill sponsored by Atlantic County Assembly members Don Guardian and Claire Swift. Both the Assembly Judiciary and Appropriations committees released that bill Monday.

The change comes at the request of some Atlantic County officials, who have complained that nonparticipating municipalities are passing along the costs of State Police and county law enforcement cases to the regional court yet benefitting from fees and fines collected. The bill (S4040/A5881) would eliminate the jurisdiction of the regional municipal court to handle those State Police and county law enforcement cases that occur outside towns that are part of the regional court.

“The intent of the original legislation was noble, to pass along savings to taxpayers, but created unanticipated consequences for participating towns,” Guardian (R-Atlantic) said. “Those towns should not shoulder the costs to hear cases if they’re not going to see any of the fine revenue.”

The regional municipal court pilot program, signed into law in 2021, allowed municipal courts in 10 counties—Atlantic, Cape May, Salem, Cumberland, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Somerset, Warren, Morris, and Sussex—to consolidate to pass along savings to taxpayers.

Of the eligible 10, only Atlantic County moved forward with the program, creating the Central Municipal Court of Atlantic County. Participating municipalities include Corbin City, Egg Harbor Township, Estell Manor, Galloway Township, Hamilton Township, Linwood, Northfield, Port Republic, Ventnor, and Weymouth Township. Those towns expected to see savings of 30-40%.

However, that court handled nearly 10,000 State Police cases in 2022 alone for the 13 other nonparticipating municipalities.

“The towns participating should not have to bear the costs of towns that are not,” Swift (R-Atlantic) added. “This bill rectifies these inequities and brings the intent of the original law back into focus.”

New Jersey has 565 municipalities and 515 local courts, with 225 seeing fewer than 3,000 filings, 166 fewer than 2,000, and 105 fewer than 1,000.

The Senate passed its bill 33-0 on Dec. 11, 2023.