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August 13, 2019

New Jersey’s municipal courts could do with big improvements, 17 in all, according to a 38-member working group that has just released its recommendations.

Set up under the aegis of the state Supreme Court, the group is made up of representatives from all three branches of government.

The recommendations address the separation of sentencing practices from a municipality’s need for revenue, modifying the appointment and reappointment process for Municipal Court judges, and consolidating the state’s smaller courts.

The working group also recommended the introduction of legislation that would significantly reduce the usage of license suspensions for failure to pay; and provide for uniform caps on penalties and fines for lower-level offenses.

Other suggestions on the list: create a traffic ticket deferral program for drivers with minor traffic offenses who maintain a clean driving record for a specific period of time; provide financial credits for hours spent in clinical treatment related to an underlying offense; reduce certain surcharges and assessments imposed by the Motor Vehicle Commission.

The report also recommends the Legislature consider establishing additional financial incentives to encourage municipal courts to consolidate and, after a three-year period, mandate the regionalization of smaller municipal courts with fewer than 3,000 annual filings.

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