It is through the Municipal Courts that most citizens in the State come into contact with the judicial system, either as a defendant, a victim, or a witness. Since most citizens will never appear before another court, it is from their experience in the Municipal Courts that most people base their conclusions about the quality of justice in New Jersey. The Municipal Courts in New Jersey are considered courts of limited jurisdiction, having responsibility for motor vehicle and parking tickets, minor criminal-type offenses (for example, simple assault and bad checks), municipal ordinance offenses (such as dog barking or building code violations) and other offenses, such as fish and game violations. A Municipal Court usually has jurisdiction only over cases that occur within the boundaries of its municipality Many serious criminal cases, such as robbery, auto theft, or assault, start out as complaints filed in the Municipal Court but those cases are transferred to the Superior Court located at the county courthouse.
The Superior Court Assignment Judge, as the chief judicial officer in each Vicinage (Judicial Management District), has plenary responsibility for the administration of the Municipal Courts. Following the recommendations of the 1985 Judicial Conference on Municipal Courts, the Supreme Court established the position of Presiding Judge-Municipal Courts in a number of vicinages. Presiding Judges-Municipal Courts, who are selected from among sitting Municipal Court Judges, work with vicinage administrative staff to coordinate the management, oversight and training of the Municipal Court Judges and support staff. Moreover, a number of Assignment Judges have authorized the establishment of a Municipal Division within their vicinage to assist in the administration of the Municipal Courts.