New Jersey Assembly Judiciary Committee approves plan to move probation out of judicial branch

For the second session in a row a constitutional amendment to remove probation from the New Jersey judiciary and transfer it to the Parole Board as been moved out of the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

According to the author’s explanation for ACR 116, the need for an amendment stems from a  New Jersey Supreme Court decision striking down a law that would have created a “Probation Officer Community Safety Unit” within the Administrative Office of the Courts with the authority to carry firearms and the power to apprehend and arrest probationers who violated the conditions of probation. In April 2006, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that law unconstitutional because it violated the separation of powers doctrine. The court stated that it is the responsibility of the Judiciary to define the duties of probation officers, not  the legislature. The court also reiterated its position that probation officers are not law enforcement officers, but impartial agents of the Judiciary. (Williams v. State of New Jersey).

Since that April 2006 opinion, there have been a series of proposed constitutional amendments to overturn the decision, starting with ACR 192 of 2006/2007, introduced just days after the decision, and including ACR 266 of 2006/2007, ACR 147/SCR 118 of 2008/2009ACR 68 of 2008/2009, and ACR 55/SCR 37 of 2010/2011. Of all of these efforts, it was 2011’s ACR 55 that saw the only movement, having been approved by the Assembly Judiciary Committee in June 2011 it died when that session adjourned.