Promising to bring justice and a progressive approach to the city prosecutor’s office, Jake Hudnut took the oath of office on July 10 in a City Hall ceremony. Hudnut, who passed the bar as an attorney in 2010, has worked as a municipal public defender and in a similar position on the state level for the last seven years. He said this gives him a unique perspective on the pursuit of justice.
Hudnut became more well-known during his unsuccessful bid for Ward E council last year.
Hudnut was sworn in by Hudson County Superior Court Judge Mitzy Galis-Menendez. He outlined the agenda he planned to implement that included providing more social services to those convicted of crime, but more importantly, to make certain that justice is served. He said the job of a prosecutor is to make certain justice is done, not merely to obtain a conviction.
Mayor Steven Fulop said the position of municipal prosecutor is a key position because many people’s first and sometimes only experience with the criminal justice system comes in municipal court.
“Jake will bring fairness to the prosecutor’s office and a progressive standpoint to our prosecutor’s office,” Fulop said. “These are things which I think are really, really important to Jersey City.”
Hudnut, Fulop said, is among a number of progressive-minded people who work for the city.
Hudnut, expanding on his working philosophy, said he would become “the voice of the voiceless.”
“It is important to put our best foot forward,” he said, “particularly in this time with changes going on at the federal level.”
He said it is important for local government to advance a progressive agenda, which means changes in the pursuit of justice. For example, he said it may be better for a person to go into rehab than jail, which might ultimately reduce the likelihood of that person returning to jail, and would also save scarce resources.
He said he would recommend community service as an alternative in cases where crimes warrant it. He said he would be opposed to sentencing people to jail for minor crimes such as marijuana possession.
Hudnut said he will use code enforcement to address many of the tenant-landlord issues in which tenants are often pitted against powerful landlords.
Some of his proposals, he said, will be based on successful programs already implemented in places like Philadelphia, where progressive reforms have a proven track record.
Hudnut, who will earn $95,000, succeeds Armando Molina, who was named as a municipal judge.
“Jake will bring fairness to the prosecutor’s office, a progressive standpoint to our prosecutor’s office.” — Steven Fulop
A new prosecutor and new approach
Fulop announced the changes in a press conference in late June when he named Hudnut as the new prosecutor and described other changes in the department that will revamp some of its programs involving inspections, fines, and other legal matters.
Hudnut said that in the past, the prosecutor’s office – which handles a host of complaints from traffic to building violations – has served as an income generator for the city. And while the office will still seek to impose fines on violations, the role will expand.
“This is data-driven and we will work to rebuild connections to the community,” he said. “I promise to bring passion to every case.”
Hudnut said that everyone that comes before the court, whether it’s someone accused of a crime or a complainant, deserves a fair shake, something, he said, was a lesson learned from his mother.
In something some people might find ironic, Hudnut said he likes being part of the justice system.
“Some people wonder why I smile when I’m in court,” he said. “I think court is the coolest place. More importantly, I will also be on the side of justice and I will see justice done every day.”
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.