Christie Signs Bill To Add 20 Judges As Part Of Massive Bail Overhaul

Gov. Chris Christie on Monday signed a bill into law that will invest $9.3 million to add 20 judges to the bench across the state.

The bipartisan measure to boost Superior Court judgeships is tied to sweeping changes to the state's bail system that took effect in the new year.

The bill (S2850) cleared the Democratic-controlled Legislature with little trouble last month as the state prepared for bail system changes -- which, among other things, will replace the state's cash bail system with one that chooses whether to jail defendants based on their risk to the community.

A half dozen Republican and Democratic lawmakers were on hand for the signing in a show of bipartisanship one day ahead of Christie's annual State of the State address on Tuesday.

Also, Chief Justice Stuart Rabner of the New Jersey Supreme Court and Attorney General Christopher Porrino joined the governor for the event.

"We found common ground and we worked together," Christie said.

"It's a major step forward for the judiciary," he said. "This is another example of the way we work together to get things done."

Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) lauded the governor for working with lawmakers.

"Working together, we were able to do something," Sweeney said. "This is too important."

New Jersey's Superior Court consists of 443 judges. The bill adds 20, who Rabner will assign.

"I asked the chief justice to look at where we have overloaded cases," Christie said.

Lawmakers and criminal justice reforms said the bill will help implement changes to the state's court system that went into effect at the beginning of the month.

The reforms go back to 2014, when Christie signed a bill that established an alternative pre-trial release system so that poor defendants aren't stuck in jail because they can't afford bail on the Statehouse steps. During that event, he promised to do what he could to advocate in favor of a constitutional amendment (SCR128) that would allow judges to deny bail to some offenders.

Christie heavily lobbied lawmakers to approve the constitutional amendment and even called legislators back to the Statehouse for a special session to take up the measure along with the companion legislation (S964) he signed into law today.

"This is a conversation that began five years ago," Rabner said on Monday. "Since then, all three branches have been working cooperatively."

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