The Latino Action Network is a grassroots organization composed of individuals and organizations that are committed to engaging in collective action at the local, state and national levels in order to advance the equitable inclusion of the diverse Latino communities in all aspects of United States society.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Governor Murphy Strengthens Expungement Reforms and Provides for Pathway to Automatic Expungement


Governor’s Conditional Veto Also Requires Sealing of Marijuana Offenses and Allows for “Clean Slate” Expungements for Those Who Have Clean Records for Ten Years

TRENTON – Governor Phil Murphy today conditionally vetoed Senate Bill No. 3205, which would institute several major reforms to the State’s expungement law and allow individuals convicted of certain offenses to petition a court to remove information about those offenses from their criminal records. As described in more detail below, the Governor’s recommendations require the creation of a system for automatic expungements for those with clean records for at least ten years, and allow for judicial sealing of low-level marijuana offenses, ensuring that individuals cannot have those convictions used against them in the future.

“I applaud the sponsors’ commitment to social justice, and their efforts to correct historic wrongs inflicted on our communities by a criminal justice system that has at times unfairly, and harshly punished individuals,” said Governor Murphy. “Providing relief for those who have served their time, and lifting the constraints placed on them from finding meaningful work, and providing for their families following a conviction and time served is a priority that I share with legislative leaders and advocates.”

“However, I believe this bill can go further for the cause of justice, and I am hopeful that we can move forward together with a bill that provides a path to automatic expungement and allows for relief for those convicted for those convicted of low-level marijuana offenses,” Governor Murphy continued. “I will continue to work with the Legislature build a more complete system of expungements, so that more New Jerseyans are given a second chance and can better reintegrate into our society.”

Clean Slate Expungement System

The Governor’s changes would require the State to implement an “automated clean slate expungement system” – an automatic system of expungements for individuals convicted of multiple crimes who have had a clean record for at least ten years, obviating the need for an attorney or the need to engage in a paperwork heavy administrative process. In order to meet the bill’s implementation requirement, the Governor’s changes establish a task force to study the technological, fiscal, resource and practical issues and challenges involved in developing such a system, and to provide recommendations on how to create the system.

As an interim measure to help those who have had clean records for at least a decade, the Governor’s changes recommend that a clean slate petition process be available for the limited period between the bill’s effective date and the implementation of an automated clean slate expungement system.  The bill calls for a $15 million supplemental appropriation to the Department of Law and Public Safety to support its processing of clean slate expungement petitions. 

Marijuana and Hashish Convictions

As passed, S3205 establishes an expedited expungement process for certain minor marijuana, hashish, and paraphernalia convictions. While laudable for its social justice aims, such a process may have the unintended and unfair effect of delaying the review of standard expungement petitions. The Governor’s changes therefore suggest having the court immediately seal an individual’s record upon the disposition of charges for possession or distribution of a small amount of marijuana or hashish or related drug paraphernalia.  Further, the Governor’s change would ensure that the sealed marijuana or hashish convictions cannot not be used for sentencing purposes in any other case.  This process provides relief while avoiding delays.

Changes to Existing Expungement Procedures

The Governor’s changes would require the State to establish an electronic expungement filing system that would streamline expungement processing, eliminate filing fees to petition for an expungement, and eliminate the current expensive requirement on individuals to send notices of the petition to various law enforcement agencies. These changes would lift the financial and time-consuming burden on individuals seeking relief.

The Governor’s changes also recommend incorporating amendments suggested by the Administrative Office of the Courts, which address technical and procedural issues identified by the Judicial Branch, which is responsible for conducting the expungement petition filing and hearing process.  The Governor’s changes suggest modifications from the Department of Treasury that are designed to facilitate the collection of fines in response to changes in the bill that shift responsibility from the courts to the Department. 

Advocates expressed their support for the Governor’s conditional veto.

“The NAACP has been involved in the cannabis conversation solely because of its connection to civil rights,” said Richard T. Smith, President of the NAACP New Jersey State Chapter. “We believe that the wrongs committed by the war on drugs and its agents can not begin to be repaired until people can have their lives back from senseless low-level marijuana offenses. We are glad to see the Governor's office conditionally veto this bill in hopes of making it stronger and the language clearer. The NAACP looks forward to working with the Governor's office to ensure that everyone will have open access to free and expedited expungement."

“This is a major step towards the restoration of thousands of lives,” said Reverend Charles Boyer. “Governor Murphy continues to show his commitment to unravel a punitive system disproportionately inflicted upon people of color. This is robust; this is a commitment; this is real.”
"On behalf of the Latino Acton Network we celebrate not only this legislation but also Governor Murphy’s conditional veto that adds automatic expungement for individuals who have had stayed crime and conviction free for ten years or more," said Cuqui Rivera, Criminal Justice Reform Chair at the Latino Action Network. “The stigma surrounding a criminal record is debilitating in so many aspects of one’s journey that to rebuild their lives after time served is virtually beyond possible. As advocates in criminal justice reform for the last 2 decades, we have worked long and hard on this very legislation. Thank you to ALL in the legislature, the administration and the advocate community who have worked so hard to realize this victory. It takes the Village. 

“Governor Murphy's conditional veto puts our state on the path to ensure that New Jerseyans burdened with criminal convictions – disproportionately people of color – will no longer need to navigate an onerous legal system to obtain the well-documented benefits of expungement," said Amol Sinha, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey. "Instead, they will be able to expunge their records as soon as they become eligible. In the coming months, the ACLU-NJ will work hard to guarantee that the task force created by the CV provides recommendations, and that the Legislature takes up legislation, to create a fairer and more efficient system for expungements."

Read the conditional veto here.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Governor Murphy Signs Resolution Designating “Puerto Rico Day” in New Jersey

TRENTON 08/15/2019 - Governor Phil Murphy today signed SJR129, designating the third Sunday of September of each year as “Puerto Rico Day” in New Jersey. New Jersey is home to the third-largest Puerto Rican population in the continental United States.

“This resolution recognizes the many contributions that Puerto Ricans and those of Puerto Rican heritage have contributed to our state,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “Puerto Ricans are our teachers, our doctors, our small business owners, and our U.S. Supreme Court justices. The third Sunday of this September and every September from now on will be dedicated to the nearly 500,000 Puerto Ricans living in New Jersey and to the countless contributions they make to our state and nation.”

Primary sponsors of the resolution include Senators M. Teresa Ruiz, Nellie Pou, and Nilsa Cruz-Perez, and Assembly members Eliana Pintor Marin, Shanique Speight, and Yvonne Lopez.

“Designating the third Sunday of September of each year as Puerto Rico Day in New Jersey signifies the unique relationship between the Garden State and the island of Puerto Rico,” said Senate President Pro Tempore M. Teresa Ruiz. “It is a chance to celebrate the Puerto Rican people, language and culture and their many contributions to the state of New Jersey. As the first Puerto Rican woman elected to the Senate, it is an honor to have put forth legislation that continues to highlight one of our greatest assets in the state, our diversity.”

“Puerto Ricans have long been one of our states largest minority populations. We have helped build, create and lead New Jersey in immeasurable ways,” said Senator Nilsa Cruz-Perez. “It’s only right that our state acknowledges these efforts and contributions from a community that has given so much throughout our long and storied history. I look forward to celebrating with everyone next month for New Jersey’s first Puerto Rican Day.”

“New Jersey truly is a melting pot of various cultures and that diversity is what makes our state great,” said Senator Nellie Pou. “Our state has one of the largest Puerto Rican populations in the country and as a proud Puerto Rican, I am glad to have had the opportunity to sponsor legislation that recognizes and celebrates a community whose influence on New Jersey has undeniably shaped the great state we have today.”

“The Puerto Rican Community has long contributed to the diversity present in New Jersey. Puerto Ricans, who comprise more than 5 percent of the state’s total population, and growing, continue to play a major role in all aspects of New Jersey’s cultural, social, political and economic life, said Assembly bill sponsors in a joint statement.

“Puerto Ricans and their descendants continue to be present and active throughout New Jersey communities. From the first Puerto Ricans who arrived at Picatinny Arsenal in Dover, NJ during the First World War to Borinqueneer Veterans who were Presidential Gold Medal Recipients of the Korean War, Puerto Ricans have made significant contributions to the Garden State and the nation.” the sponsors continued. “The State of New Jersey and Puerto Rico also continue to have a strong sense of shared community, perhaps best evidenced recently in the immediate and generous action taken by New Jersey residents to offer assistance in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.  “Formally designating an annual Puerto Rico Day acknowledges the meaningful relationship between Puerto Rico and New Jersey and serves to encourage residents to celebrate the people, language and culture of Puerto Rico.”

“We are deeply gratified to know that Governor Murphy continues to stand with the people of Puerto Rico,” said Bishop Joshua Rodriguez, Chair of the New Jersey Commission on Puerto Rico Relief. “As an inclusive leader, he has been instrumental in Puerto Rico’s healing process since Hurricanes Irma and Maria and continues to support the rebuilding of our precious island, Borinquén, as well as ensuring that the state of New Jersey provides vital services and recovery assistance to Puerto Ricans who have relocated across the region since the devastating Hurricanes.”

“As the first Miss Puerto Rico of the Statewide Parade of New Jersey, I am thankful that our Puerto Rican community is being honored with SJR129. I want to thank the Legislators and the Governor for making the third Sunday in September of each year as "Puerto Rican Day" in New Jersey,” said Peggy Anastos, Vice-Chair of the New Jersey Commission on Puerto Rico Relief.  “My Puerto Rican Brothers and sisters here and in Puerto Rico should be treated equally as all other American Citizens in the Country.  This bill will remind people that we are the largest of any Latino group in New Jersey. Puerto Ricans have seen our island go through many difficulties in the past years.  Celebrating our culture and love for our music and people is important.  thank you again Governor Murphy and Senator Pou, Senator Ruiz, Senator Nilsa Cruz Perez, Assemblywoman Yvonne Lopez, Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marín and Assemblywoman Shanique Speight.”

“The designation of the third Sunday of every September as “Puerto Rico Day” is another indication of Governor Murphy’s inclusive agenda and his desire to recognize every community in this beautifully diverse state. Puerto Ricans have been civil rights pioneers in New Jersey and across the nation,” said Frank Argote-Freyre, Chair of the Latino Action Network Foundation. “They were the founders of many of the community organizations in New Jersey that now serve hundreds of thousands of needy individuals of all backgrounds.”

The history of Puerto Ricans in New Jersey is one that spans well over a half-century and encompasses a series of social, cultural and political accomplishments by the community throughout this time.  By declaring the third Sunday of every September, as "Puerto Rican Day", Governor Murphy does not only recognize these past achievements but also reaffirms the important role that Puerto Ricans will have on the future success of the Garden State,” said David Ortiz, Sr., Puerto Rican Community Leader. “I would like to thank the Governor for bestowing such an honor to all Puerto Ricans who call New Jersey their home. It will be well received and highly appreciated by our community for many years to come."

"The island of Puerto Rico has endured some of the most horrendous challenges of its time from natural catastrophes, to the recent ousting of Governor Rosello and more. The Latino Action Network (LAN) has been directly on the ground in several relief and rebuild missions since Hurricane Maria and knows firsthand the turmoil related to these challenges,” said Cuqui Rivera, Executive Secretary of the Latino Action Network. “Governor Murphy you again stand up and with our Latino community in recognition of our New Jersey Puerto Rican constituents. Your gesture of love and support through this legislation is appreciated and applauded…  Gracias!!"