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Political Appointments Disrupt Municipal Court Routine and Finances

By on Feb 17 2013.
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Kenneth Faigenbaum Committee Chamber & Municipal Court

Kenneth Faigenbaum Committee Chamber & Municipal Court

The plaque above the Springfield Committee Chamber & Municipal Court bears the name of former Mayor and President of the Board of Education Kenneth Faigenbaum who passed away in August 2009.  On November 24, 2009, the room was dedicated to his memory and he was remembered for his 25 years of public service.  Democratic insiders who knew Faigenbaum describe him as a fair and objective official who was more concerned with the welfare of the Township than the partisan politics.  It was that spirit and his acquaintance with Springfield resident and attorney Howard Egenberg, affectionately known by many as “Howie”, that eventually led to Egenberg’s appointment by the Democrat-controlled Township Committee as an Assistant Prosecutor in the Springfield Municipal Court.

The Judge presiding at the time was Springfield resident and attorney Steven Firsichbaum.  Firsichbaum and his wife, Suzanne, were active members of the Springfield Democratic Party and his wife’s company JS Blade Advertising, located in Union, did work for Springfield Democratic Party campaigns.  This political history was considered in his repeated appointments as the Judge for nearly 15 years.  However, turmoil in the Municipal Court reached a tipping point in 2007 during Mayor Faigenbaum’s term.  The New Jersey Administrative Office of the Courts contacted Springfield with concern about case backlog.  The delays in case disposition drew outside attention and negatively affected the management of the Municipal Court.  The Democrat-controlled Township Committee was forced to address the issue delicately in 2008 and suggested the hiring of an “Assistant Judge” to Firsichbaum.  He was agreeable and Judge Jonathan Rosenbluth began scheduling additional sessions with Egenberg.  Case backlog was no longer an issue.  In 2009, Firsichbaum lost his seat on the bench and Judge Jonathan Rosenbluth took his place much to the disappointment of many local Democratic Party officials.  Egenberg was also appointented to replace the Prosecutor.  Since 2009, Rosenbluth and Egenberg developed a professional relationship and with the Township Court employees, they transformed the Court earning the respect of the Police Department and Township officials.  In 2011, the Springfield Municipal Court was recognized by the New Jersey Administrative Office of the Courts with a “Backlog Reduction Award” trophy.

Sources in Town Hall have expressed frustration with the stark difference in Court operations in 2013.  While most of the individuals remain the same or have previous experience in the Springfield Municipal Court, the new Democrat-controlled Township Committee and Mayor David Amlen replaced Howard Egenberg as the Prosecutor with Springfield resident and attorney Yale L. Greenspoon.  Recently, Greenspoon was appointed as the Attorney to the Rent Leveling Board in 2009 and 2011.  His wife, Elissa K. Greenspoon, was appointed as the Attorney to the Board of Health in 2012.  In 2012, both husband and wife were critics of the Republican-controlled Township Committee and joined the opposition to Republican efforts.  Critics allege that Greenspoon received the appointment as a result of his increased activism with the Democratic Party and lacks the experience or skill to ensure the continued success of the Municipal Court.  Those familiar with the operation of the Court point out the delicate nature of scheduling trials, case disposition, plea bargains and the Court and Police overtime budgets.

In certain cases, the Police Officer that issued the summons or made the arrest is required to be in Court.  Depending on the handling of the cases by the Prosecutor and the scheduling of trials, the Officers may be on-duty or off-duty which raises the issue of overtime.  The length of Court sessions also affects how long Police Officers must be there for security on overtime.  Additionally, the State Attorney General publishes guidelines for the handling of certain offenses and the discretion that may be exercised with some plea bargains.  The implications of Greenspoon’s questionable appointment as Prosecutor were quickly evident within the first month of the new year.  Observers have seen Greenspoon coming to Town Hall earlier than his predecessor and Court sessions are ending later.  Additionally, questions are being raised about the role and presence of his wife during Court sessions.  The cost of Police overtime for the Court has already exceeded the amount expended in the same period in 2012.



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