Hazlet, Matawan, Keyport Regional Court Starts Friday
The regional court will provide a cost saving to the three municipalities, officials say
The Joint Municipal Court of Hazlet, Matawan and Keyport will officially begin on Friday, June 1 at 12:01 a.m., replacing each municipality's respective court system.
The regional court is expected to provide a cost savings to each municipality, particularly in the areas of operation and personnel, according Valentino.
"We can staff one court with fewer people than what three courts need to operate," Valentino said. "With three towns you need three judges, three prosecutors, three public defenders, three police departments to provide court security, three court clerks, three deputy court clerks. With a joint court, you only need one."
Each municipality will contribute $33,500 annually for fixed costs, such as electricity and security. Hazlet, Matawan and Keyport will divide the remaining variable costs, such as employee salaries, using a five year rolling average of each municipality's total number of court cases, Valentino said.
For 2012, Matawan will contribute 22.46% of the costs, Hazlet will contribute 39% and Keyport will contribute 38.54%. The percentages will change annually based on the five year rolling average to maintain an equitable share of the cost for each municipality, Valentino explained.
Matawan Mayor Paul Buccellato said in Sept. 2011, when the ordinance for the regional court was first introduced, that the shared service would save the borough between $100,000 and $110,000 per year.
The county clerk, deputy court clerk, judge, prosecutor and public defender positions in Matawan will be eliminated, Buccellato said. The person currently working as the court clerk will transfer to another department, Buccellato said.
Regional court judges must be appointed by Gov. Chris Christie, Valentino said. No appointment has been made yet, but Hon. Michael D. Pugliese, who currently serves as the judge in Keyport, will serve in the interim.
The public defender and prosecutor will be chosen by a committee with representatives from each municipality. They will then be appointed by Hazlet, Valentino explained.
Each municipality passed an ordinance abolishing their respective court system and joining the regional one in Dec. 2011. The regional court was originally supposed to begin on Jan. 1, 2012, but bureaucracy held up the process, according to Buccellato.
"It took the AOC (Administrative Office of the Courts) a while to get through all of the paper work we submitted because they wanted an account of each municipality's records. Each record had to be pulled and all permanent records had to be put into a filing system," Buccellato said.
According to Valentino, the application process and subsequent steps to create a regional court were rigorous.
The court will reside in Hazlet Township at 255 Middle Road and the first session of the regional court will be held on Monday, June 4, according to Hazlet Township Administrator Brian Valentino.