SPARTA, N.J. – New Jersey has too many local courts and taxpayers are shelling out too much money to sustain them, Assemblymen Parker Space and Hal Wirths said today.
“The cost to run things like this is out of control,” said Space (R-Sussex). “The state doesn’t reimburse towns for their courts and budget after budget, the state keeps municipal aid flat. Legislators should help towns save money and that is why we are sponsoring these bills.”
Wirths and Space sponsor five bills making it easier for courts to merge or share responsibilities, and freeing the bench from political influence and financial considerations.
“In extreme cases, municipal courts are being accused of becoming a fundraising arm for cash-strapped towns,” said Assemblyman Hal Wirths (R-Sussex). “We have 565 municipalities and 515 local courts in the state. The numbers just don’t make sense. It’s expensive, inefficient, and it needs to end.”
Exhaustive reports released in July by a committee assigned by the state Supreme Court and another published in 2017 by the New Jersey Bar Association have questioned the money-making motives of the courts.
During his testimony before the Assembly Budget Committee last week, Judge Glenn Grant, acting administrative director of the courts, said towns need “to know that municipal courts are not revenue generators.” He said they should be “making findings with regard to a person’s guilt or innocence — not connected to the treasury of the town.”
Grant told the panel that a working group of 38 representatives from three branches of government is compiling another report on consolidation.
“No more talk. That horse has left the barn,” said Space. “We don’t need any more reports telling us there’s a problem, that we must cut costs by condensing court operations. We know what needs to be done. We need action on our legislation.”
Wirths agreed. “Our legislation lightens the load on taxpayers and allows the courts to function as intended, to uphold the law and fairness not pump money into a broken system.”
Wirths and Space have sponsored these solutions:
- Proposes a constitutional amendment eliminating the role of the governor and Senate in the appointment of joint municipal court judges (ACR160).
- Provides that if two or more municipalities establish a joint municipal court, the method of selecting and appointing each judge would be set in the agreement establishing that court (A3716).
- Provides for early termination of terms of office for appointed municipal court positions when municipalities establish joint or shared municipal courts (A170).
- Authorizes the sharing of a municipal court administrator under the Common Sense Shared Services Pilot Program Act (A4390).
- Provides a portion of fines generated by tickets issued by the State Police go to municipality where violation occurred (A515).