Mayor Steven Fulop has reappointed Jake Hudnut as Jersey City’s chief municipal prosecutor, citing his record of shaking things up, challenging norms, and building a progressive, problem-solving local prosecutor’s office. Hudnut was confirmed unanimously by the City Council in June.
Hudnut was first appointed to the position in July 2018, promising to bring justice and a progressive approach to the city prosecutor’s office.
Fulop said the municipal prosecutor is a key position because many people’s first and sometimes only experience with the criminal justice system comes in municipal court.
Hudnut 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.
A substitute for jail
Hudnut has promoted an agenda that recommends community service as an alternative in cases where the crimes warrant it. Hudnut opposes 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 property owners.
When first nominated by Mayor Fulop in June 2018, Hudnut was no stranger to advocating for the rights of others, which he’s done from the start of his career as a court-appointed defense attorney.
Under his leadership, Jersey City became the first in the state to decriminalize marijuana, and began a policy of knocking on doors of negligent property owners to enforce tenants’ rights. He has promised more advancements to come.
“You can’t increase the integrity of municipal courts without allowing municipal prosecutors to exercise judgement and discretion,” Hudnut said. “And I credit Mayor Fulop. No other mayor in the state has stood so strongly beside a municipal prosecutor. Together we are transforming the statewide conversation on marijuana legalization from one purely about taxation revenue to one including social justice, racial equality, and local control.”
An enhanced Quality of Life effort
Hudnut has also shaken things up as chairman of the Mayor’s Quality of Life Taskforce. Under his leadership, the task force has focused the power of interdepartmental code inspection and law enforcement on negligent property owners and businesses. City officials believe the task force has had noted success in compelling absentee landlords to make needed repairs for tenants.
“All low-level criminal offenses and code and ordinance violations are heard in the municipal court,” said Mayor Fulop on the decision to reinvent the task force. “These quality-of-life issues affect every resident on every block. By moving the ‘QOL’ Taskforce under Jake’s office, we ensured that he and his staff are responsive to residents, law and code enforcement, victims of crime, and tenants that have nowhere else to turn.”
“Everyone deserves a safe place to call home and clean neighborhood to live in. That is what the task force, and the dozen city offices that comprise it, is fighting for every day,” Hudnut said.
Modernizing the municipal prosecutors office has included making prosecutors more accessible to the public, including victims of crimes, and increasing online and by-mail disputes or payments of violations.
The office also partnered with the Office of Public Safety and the Jersey City Police Department to streamline discovery fulfillment, and establish permanent law enforcement presence in the office to enhance enforcement, investigations, and warrant executions.
City officials say Jersey City’s municipal court also recently took the lead in the state over other courts in the number of cases handled each month.
A monthly Victims of Crime Resource Day was recently launched, intended to provide access to the state Attorney General’s Victims of Crime Compensation Office so victims of certain crimes can learn their eligibility for possible compensation.
For updates on this and other stories check hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Al Sullivan can be reached at email@example.com