Mr. Robert Pinizzotto, Esq., a former Municipal Court Prosecutor and the former head of the New Jersey Municipal Court Prosecutor’s Association, filed a lawsuit challenging the fairness of the Municipal Court System.
The lawsuit, brought by two New Jersey DWI Defendants, seeks a declaration that the Municipal Court system violates the Defendants’ constitutional rights to a fair and unbiased trial. The lawsuit charges that Judges are “subservient to the executive branch” that appoints them. This, according to the suit, makes the Judges beholden to the financial issues of the government. In other words, the focus of the Judges is generating revenue rather than dispensing justice. The suit also charges than local prosecutors are not “not bound by the same ethical obligations” as county prosecutors, rendering the system unfair for defendants.
This lawsuit is a courageous challenge to the entire New Jersey Municipal Court system. The lawsuit brings to light an issue that many practitioners complain about – but only privately. Mr. Pinizzotto, who as a Prosecutor, was in my experience always concerned primarily about dispensing justice (not just obtaining a conviction). That focus (seeking “justice” through righteousness) makes the best system of justice in the world work – you “cannot serve two masters.”
As a college student, I worked as a reporter for a local newspaper covering the local Municipal Court. On my first assignment, when the court session ended, and I was writing notes, the Judge turned to the Court Administrator and asked, “How did we do tonight?” I quickly raised my head and looked up bewildered – as if this was manager of a store asking his cashier how much merchandise was sold. This bold challenge attempts to blaze a trail where no one else has dared go. I applaud the lawsuit and the gutsy challenge.