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New Jersey Supreme Court Considers Dismissing Hundreds Of Thousands Of Minor Cases

TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – New Jersey may toss out more than 780,000 old warrants for minor offenses, like parking violations and local ordinance violations.

As CBS2's Andrea Grymes reports, it's part of an effort to improve the state's municipal court system.

Elmon Grant, of Montclair, says he still owes money on parking tickets he got back in the 1970s. Thanks to this new push, those fees may finally be dropped.

"Very good idea, because I still owe about $2,000," he said.

He's not alone, Grymes reports.

The state's Supreme Court is considering dismissing minor cases that are unresolved and more than 15 years old. For example, from 1986 to 2003, there are more than 780,000 open warrants for failure to appear, like in cases for parking tickets and moving violations.

In an order issued Thursday, Chief Justice Stuart Rabner wrote that these outstanding complains and open warrants, "raise questions of fairness, the appropriate use of limited public resources... and administrative efficiency."

Jeanne Locicero, with the New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, says this is a big step in the right direction.

"New Jersey's municipal courts need more oversight and they really oftentimes are prioritizing revenue over justice," she said.

She says the overdue fines add up, disproportionately affecting the poor.

The court will not consider tossing more serious offenses, like driving while intoxicated or driving with a suspended license. A three-judge panel will conduct a series of hearings across the state on the potential case dismissals.

Not all New Jersey residents are on board.

"I think people should pay their fines no matter how long they've been out. On the other hand, if that proves to be impractical and the state wants to let it all go, I think the state owes something to the towns," one man said.

This comes just days after a Supreme Court committee report found significant concerns in the state's municipal court system.

Hearing dates have not been announced yet.

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