A Municipal Court appeal is a request, in writing, for a higher court, the County Superior Court, to modify or reverse a Municipal Court ruling. An appeal is distinguishable from a direct application in the Municipal Court following a judgment, for example, a motion to vacate a plea or motion to modify a sentence.
Municipal Court appeals from final judgments are initiated under NJ Court Rule 3:23-2, by the filing of a Notice of Appeal, within 20-days after the entry of judgment under NJ Court Rule. 3:23-2. NJ Court Rule 1:3-4(c) prohibits the enlargement of the 20-day filing deadline, although in State v. Martin, 335 N.J. Super. 447, 451 (App. Div. 2000), the Court held that the time-limit is extendable when the defendant was not advised regarding the right and time-period to appeal.
The Municipal Court sentence can be held in abeyance, known as a “stay,” under NJ Court Rule 7:13–2. The hearing on appeal is called a Trial De Novo under NJ Court Rule 3:23-8(a). The County Superior Court must determine the case completely anew on the record (i.e., the testimony and documentary evidence) made before the trial judge, giving due although not necessarily controlling, regard to the opportunity of the judge to judge the credibility of the witnesses.
Under NJ Court Rule 3:23-8(e), if the defendant is convicted, the Superior Court shall impose a sentence. Although the sentence on appeal is discretionary, the Superior Court may not, De Novo, impose a sentence that exceeds the sentence imposed in the Municipal Court.
An Appeal under NJ Court Rule 3:23-2 is often confused by clients, with applications filed directly in the Municipal Court seeking to modify or vacate a Municipal Court judgment, post-judgment motions. These applications or motions will usually be in the form of a Post-Conviction-Relief (PCR) application under NJ Court Rule 7:10-2(c) (PCR), or Motion to Withdraw a Guilty Plea under NJ Court Rule R. 7:6-2(b). A defendant may also seek to modify/reduce a sentence by filing an application with the Municipal Court under NJ Court Rule 7:9-4 (Reduction or Change of Sentence).
Appeals and post-judgment motions involve, at the outset, the intricate application of correct New Jersey Rule of Court. A successful appeal or motion is fact-sensitive but requires an in-depth knowledge of applicable New Jersey statutory and case law. If you are looking to appeal, modify, or vacate a Municipal Court judgment, feel free to contact me for an initial assessment.
Greggory M. Marootian, Esq.
154 South Livingston Avenue
Livingston, NJ 07039
NJ Municipal Court Specialist