Friday, March 11, 2011

The Urgent Need to Reform the N.J. Municipal Court System

The Urgent Need to Reform the New Jersey Municipal Court System

Although this N.J. Criminal Defense Attorney does not personally need evidence of the existence of God, every once in a while he sends us a message that he is listening in the form of poetic justice.

This message came down again with the second driving while intoxicated (DWI) conviction of George Korpita the former municipal court judge in the towns of Dover, Rockaway Borough, and Victory Gardens.

While on the bench this man did not blink when he threw the book at each defendant who came before him. This man while on the bench did not flinch when he routinely took away driving privileges of working men and women in the need of a driver’s license to support their families. Not surprisingly at the time of the motor vehicle stop the first thing Korpita said to the police officer was, “I’m a judge. Bro. Can’t you give me a break?”

Not surprising, Korpita, when was arrested on February 15, 2008, in Township of Sparta, attempted to use every defense that he himself rejected from other defendant’s during is tenure on the bench. When Korpita failed the alphabet test he claimed that the police officer was lying and that he did fine. When he failed the walk and turn test he claimed that he could not do the test because one leg was shorter than the other. When he was asked to submit to Alcotest test readings (knowing the 20 minute wait after a belch) he belched repeatedly 78 times in 75 minutes, blaming it on escargot he had eaten earlier. Not surprising was the fact that miraculously the burping stopped after he was issued a ticket for refusal.

What is not surprising were the admission that he made while intoxicated at the time of his arrest regarding his dishonesty, injustice and corrupt behavior as a municipal court judge. In his rant after being issued a ticket for refusal and in his anger at the police, he admitted that as a judge he always ruled in favor of the police, “but not again.” Even more shocking was the admission that he “would always allow the police to beat the shit out of people”, but would no longer do it.

This admission of utterly disgraceful behavior is no surprise to this New Jersey criminal defense attorney who had the unhappy privilege of defending a mother who was in the emergency room at St. Clair’s Hospital in Dover when she attempted to intervene by verbally requesting a Dover police officer to cease beating her mentally handicapped son. The dishonest cop looking for a two-month disability vacation claimed that the mother grabbed the back of his shirt causing him back injury. (can't make this stuff up) The mother having her son punched repeatedly by the cop was charged with assaulting the officer and resisting arrest, when the nurse tried to protect the mother from being arrested for no reason.

At trial two nurses, one Catholic Chaplin, and the treating physician from St. Clair's all testified that the mother did not touch the police officer. What was more shocking than Korpita's ruling that the Catholic Chaplin, two nurses and treating physician were lying when he made his decision finding the mother guilty of all charges, was the fact that prior to all four defense witnesses testifying Korpita in open court attempted to intimidate all four witnesses by telling them that by testifying that they waived their Fifth Amendment against self incrimination and could be charged themselves with committing a crime., and should seek the advise of legal counsel. To their credit the treating physician, two nurses, and Catholic Chaplan all had the courage to tell the truth and testify in spite of Korpita's attempt to intimidate them. (You cannot make this stuff up)

On appeal a New Jersey Superior Court Judge in Morris County reversed the disorderly person’s assault conviction, but nevertheless convicted the mother because she refused to be cuffed when the nurse attempted to protect the mother by moving her into another room away from the errant police officer.

What is important with the Korpita story is that to many of the municipal court judges in this State, in various degrees, are no different than George Korpita. To often they are more interested in keeping their jobs, and the only way they do it is by increasing the municipal court fine revenue by finding everyone guilty. Often the most bizarre and brazen perjured testimony by municipal police officer are found credible at the expense of the accused defendant. More often than not there is absolutely no justice in municipal courts in this State. There is a conflict of interest since the judge’s paycheck depends on him or her being reappointed, and any municipal court judge that is fair will not be reappointed, since being fair sometime demands that defendants are acquitted.

The remedy in my opinion is that the municipal court system undergo a major reformation, a reform, which will attempt to give some justice for the people who come before it.

It is time that our State Legislature take away from the local towns the appointment of judges. Municipal Court judges should be appointed by the Governor, or some other neutral body, based on merit, fairness and experience. The courts should be consolidated to eliminate costs and cronyisms, and the salaries of these judges paid by the State from tax revenue and fines generated.

As John F. Kennedy said, “People see things and say, why, I see things and say why not.” The time for reform and change is now; we should not expect anything less.

New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney, Vincent J. Sanzone, Jr., Esq. Law Office Located at 277 North Broad Street, Union County, New Jersey 07207. (908) 354-7006 Posted: March 11, 2011

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