Bill to fund legal services, ‘e-court’ returns

TRENTON – A bill vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie that would help set up an e-court system and provide money to fund legal services for the poor is back.

Senate lawmakers are slated to vote on a proposal Thursday that would allow for funding to be steered toward a program to develop and maintain a statewide electronic court system and legal services for New Jersey residents.

The legislation, S2207/A3308, is set to hit the Senate floor during a full voting session and mirrors a proposal vetoed by Christie in June.

In his veto message, the governor indicated he was vetoing the bill not on “the merits of [the] legislation,” but rather because it amounted to a supplemental spending bill.

Now, the Assembly sponsor of the proposal – who first introduced the measure several years ago – says he’s still hopeful the executive and both houses can come to an agreement.

“I think it will probably be that we can reach some kind of accommodation with the governor’s office,” said Assemblyman Peter Barnes, (D-18), Edison.

“We need it for two reasons,” he said, first arguing that “legal services funding has dried up” over the last four years and that the “institution that’s been around for a long, long time is going to close up shop” unless something is done.

Secondly, Barnes said, an e-court system is vital in keeping the state up-to-speed with court proceedings, as well as keeping up with other states and the federal court system.

Although the legislation has changed little since it was vetoed by Christie, Barnes said he’s hopeful the proposal will move through the Legislature and that a compromise will be hashed out with the governor.

Similarly, the proposal will likely be amended along the way, Barnes said, adding he would still support his measure as long as it provides funding for the two core programs laid out in the proposal.

The bill is sponsored in the upper chamber by Senate President  Steve Sweeney, (D-3).

  Bill to fund legal services, ‘e-court’ returns