New Jersey lawmakers are currently considering a bill that would create a new court system in the state. Pursuant to Assembly Bill No. 3874, counties would be authorized to create county-municipal courts with limited, countywide jurisdiction.
The new type of municipal court would be established by a county governing body, such as Freeholder Boards. The municipalities in that county would agree, by ordinance, to have violations occurring within their municipal boundaries heard in the new court. Below are several other key features of the new court system:
- The new court would be an inferior court of limited jurisdiction, adjudicating all matters for which a municipal court currently has jurisdiction pursuant to N.J.S.2B:12-17 et seq., such as violations of county and municipal ordinances, and motor vehicle and traffic laws, plus all civil actions currently adjudicated in the Special Civil Part of the Superior Court, Law Division (generally civil actions with damages not exceeding $15,000 and summary landlord-tenant actions).
- Any county could establish a county-municipal court by ordinance. The ordinance would provide an initial date on which the court would begin hearing matters. The county would be responsible for providing one or more suitable courtrooms, chambers, offices, equipment and supplies for the county-municipal court in the same county courthouse utilized by the Superior Court in that county.
- Each municipality within a county that establishes a county-municipal court would have to agree, by ordinance enacted and implemented no later than two years next following the date on which the new court would initially begin hearing matters, to have violations occurring within its municipal boundaries heard in the new court. The municipality would not be responsible for any administrative costs associated with the operation and maintenance of the new court.
- However, if a municipality failed to agree within the two-year period to have violations heard by the new court, the Assignment Judge of the vicinage for the county would order that any violations occurring in the non-compliant municipality be heard in the new court. The municipality would be responsible for all administrative costs specified in the judge’s order until such time as it agreed to have violations heard by that court.
- If a municipality had previously established a municipal court, the municipality would, in the ordinance joining with the county-municipal court, specify a date on which the previously established municipal court will be abolished and thereafter all violations heard in the new court. The date set forth in the ordinance could be no more than one year next following the date on which the ordinance is enacted.
- On the date established by a municipality in its ordinance for abolishing its previously established court and initially having violations heard in the new court: (1) all causes and proceeding of whatever character pending in the municipal court would be transferred, along with the files for those causes and proceedings, to the county-municipal court; and (2) all the functions, powers, and duties conferred on the municipal court abolished by the ordinance, to the extent not inconsistent with the functions, powers, and duties of the county-municipal court, would be transferred to and could be exercised by the county-municipal court.
- All costs, fines, fees and forfeitures of bail imposed by a county-municipal court would generally be paid to the county treasury of the county where the court is located, to defray the county’s cost of operating the court.
We will be closely tracking the status of AB 3874, which is currently pending before the Assembly Judiciary Committee. Please check back for updates.