Warren County Built a Courtroom Wrong. Freeholders Won’t Admit Fault.

There has been a dispute in Warren County for the past few years, ever since they built a courtroom with a pillar that blocks the defense tables’ view of the jury and witness stand.

How can a defendant be afforded a fair trial if his lawyers are not allowed to see the witness stand, much less a jury?

It was a boner of a move by the county to pay for a courtroom that can’t be used, but these things happen.

There have been too many delays in an already crowded courthouse. It’s a very frustrating thing. Anyone who has made a similar mistake can sympathize, but the all-GOP freeholder board should have known better.

The rules were available to the county and to the architects they hired when they decided to build it anyway. They should admit their mistakes and rebuild. But no, here come the talking points: “It’s about taxpayer money!

The County’s solution?

A state senate bill proposal would give the County the power to decide that denying a defendant’s right to full access to the courts is “suitable” solely because they don’t want to be responsible for raising the money to fix it.  

In the Express-Times today:

Sen. Michael Doherty said he plans to introduce a bill that would give county officials final authority on costs related to courtrooms, judges’ chambers, equipment and supplies. The bill would also give the county’s elected officials the power to determine whether courtroom facilities are “suitable” according to the terms of the law.

Such changes would “prevent the spendthrift state judiciary from wasting county taxpayer dollars in these kinds of disputes,” said Doherty, R-Warren/Hunterdon.

In his bill, Doherty wrote that he believes the rule “in effect allows the New Jersey Supreme Court to improperly make decisions about county spending.”

What is improper about allowing defendants and their lawyers to see the witnesses testifying against them?

The County screwed up. I would think it make more sense for this bill to say that the state should be responsible for construction of its own courtrooms. But no, the county wants to have its cake and eat it too.

Such decisions, [Doherty] added, “must be the sole responsibility of county elected officials fulfilling their responsibilities to taxpayers.”

If this bill passes, I just hope none of those taxpayers end up in court and are forced to defend themselves without seeing what their accusers are saying.

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