Trenton – The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee released legislation sponsored by Senator Nellie Pou that would bring major reforms concerning public defender representation in New Jersey. One bill would eliminate fees, liens and warrants issued for Public Defender services, while the other would direct the Office of the Public Defender (OPD) to provide representation at parole revocation hearings.
Under the first bill, S-3771, any unpaid outstanding fees previously assessed or imposed upon a defendant, as well as any unsatisfied civil judgments, liens on property, or warrants issued based on the unpaid balances, for services rendered by the public defender would be vacated and discharged.
“The Constitution guarantees any criminal defendant the right to an attorney. It is one of the bedrocks of our justice system, and is emblematic of the values set forth in our founding document,” said Senator Pou (D-Passaic/Bergen). “This bill serves to ensure that all defendants, including those of limited means, have access to legal services without having to pay burdensome fees.”
A second bill, S-3772, would establish a unit within OPD to be responsible for providing legal representation for any person on parole from a correctional institution or who is otherwise under parole supervision, and is charged with violating parole or is under consideration of having their parole revoked.
This legislation would implement Recommendation “E” from the March 2023 Criminal Sentencing and Disposition Commission report which proposed the end of reliance on court-appointed attorneys for parole violation cases and the restoration of that service through the OPD.
The bills, S3771, and S-3772, advanced out of committee by votes of 8-4, and 8-4, respectively.