“This is only the beginning.” – Senator O’Scanlon
Senator Declan O’Scanlon has introduced three bills aimed at keeping financial incentives out of municipal courts. The bills (S-3059, S-3060, SR-108) were introduced in the wake of direct recommendations from July’s Supreme Court Subcommittee on Municipal Court Fines, Operations, and Revenue.
Sen. Declan O’Scanlon has introduced three bills aimed at keeping financial incentives out of municipal courts. (©iStock)
“The courts should be upholding justice, not in the business of raising revenue,” O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth) said. “The purpose of my legislation is to take financial incentives out of the equation. Our judges and police officers should welcome these reforms, as enforcers of justice we will be taking the pressure off them to be the tax collectors the status quo incentivizes.”
O’Scanlon has been vocal about the need for municipal court reform, and his support of Chief Justice Rabner’s efforts to take this on.
“Too many of our towns have come to rely on fines to fund their budgets,” O’Scanlon added. “Police officers and municipal judges consistently feel pressure to write more tickets and give out more fines. Municipal judges wind up being chosen based on how many fines they’re likely to give out.
“Profit is the mortal enemy of justice. This is a completely unacceptable practice that must be stopped.”
O’Scanlon’s new bills include:
- Increasing the term of municipal court judges from three to five years.
- Allowing defendants to earn credits toward any fines if they complete court-imposed drug or alcohol treatment.
- A resolution offering an idea for the creation of additional oversight of municipal judges.
“There is still much more to be done, but these bills will start the conversation about real, tangible reforms. Chief Justice Rabner has shown his commitment to reforms with the subcommittee report and his recent panel announcement, but we must do our part to by addressing legislative changes as well. I urge my colleagues in the legislature to join me in this critical effort.” O’Scanlon concluded.