NEWARK, NJ — Acting Essex County Prosecutor Robert D. Laurino announced Feb. 16 that a pilot program with a single judge handling all detention hearings in domestic violence cases started Feb. 15 in Essex County.
Superior Court Judge Ramona Santiago is hearing the cases. The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office and the Public Defender’s Office have assigned defense attorneys and prosecutors to handle these cases.
As part of Criminal Justice Reform, more commonly referred to as bail reform, a team, which includes the state Public Defender Joseph E. Krakora and Somerset County Prosecutor Michael Robertson, came to Essex County last week to review pretrial services. That led to a series of discussions and ultimately an agreement that resulted in this initiative separating domestic violence cases from other criminal cases. The goal is to have a judge, who is highly skilled in domestic violence issues, determine when a defendant should be detained.
“It is important that we have a legal system that understands the nature of domestic violence, is responsive to victims and fair in administering justice. I look forward to working with the Public Defender’s Office and the courts in this endeavor,” Laurino said in the press release.