MANCHESTER – The township’s court system is somewhat of a model of efficiency for how courts best operate during a global pandemic. During a recent council session, officials got a full report on how their court system was operating.
Council President Sam Fusaro said in a recent conversation with Township Court Administrator Tracy Barcus “I asked her how court was going because they have so many cases that we don’t want to get backed up too far and I was amazed at what they had done to get not only Manchester on line but some of the county if not most of the county as well.”
Barcus spoke about how the municipal court had been doing since it went essentially virtual due to the conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our municipal court has been up and running since our first virtual court session which was held on May 6. We actually had a double session. We did Lakehurst first in the morning with 15 people and then in the afternoon we also had 15 defendants through Zoom.”
The township has a shared services agreement with Lakehurst. She noted that she and the township’s technical department official Josh Schnoor, the municipal division of Ocean County along with the township’s presiding judge and the assignment judge of Ocean County “were all part of our first virtual court session.”
“Needless to say, because of Josh and his IT specialties we have gotten the court up and running and it was a complete success on May 6. The defendants found it very easy to come on. It was very accommodating to them as far as to when they were working. They were allowed to sit in their car on their lunch break,” Barcus said.
She said this allowed defendants “to have their day in court so it really went very well. Since then Josh has helped our 31 courts in Ocean County get up and running in some fashion whether it be to help them with the Zoom program or get them connected to the (Ocean County) Jail.”
Barcus said Manchester was the first municipal court system in the county to be able to hook up to the Ocean County Jail to allow for testimony for hearings. “We are able to Zoom with them as well on a court session. It has really been a long road but a very successful road for Manchester Court.”
“We are up to about 100 sessions now. We sometimes have a double session which Josh and my staff run simultaneously. We’ve really been trying to get these cases adjudicated so there isn’t a backlog,” she said. The court administration will likely continue doing this since social distancing is still the rule.
She urged the mayor, Borough Council and residents to examine the court system website. The court schedule is on there and notices are color coded “so they are all aware of where they have to go for their Zoom meetings. We have everything downloaded on the website as well so if they need a form, a public defender application, we have that. It is one stop shopping at the municipal court.”
Barcus credited Schnoor saying, “because of the way Josh put this together all the 31 courts in Ocean County are the same. Defendants will be familiar if God forbid they have to go to another court beyond Manchester or Lakehurst.”
“The officers along with Donna Markulic (Township Administrator) and Jim (Gant, Asst. Township Administrator) helping me get all this together so the court has been running successfully since May 6 and will continue to do so even remotely. If we have to go back to remote we can still run the municipal court effectively from home.”
It was noted by attorney Martin J. Buckley, whose firm represents the township, that there was no uniform process in other counties. “I prosecute in Barnegat Township. Josh and Tracy were a huge help to us in getting up and running. Their leadership really got the rest of the county on board. Because of their work I feel Ocean County is well beyond other counties in this aspect.”