Virtual Sessions Looking Like The Norm for Municipal Courts

By FRED T. ROSSI
Specially Written for The Leader/Times

SCOTCH PLAINS — Virtual municipal court proceedings look increasingly to be the way the legal process will conduct business in the future.

Municipal Court Judge Kelly Waters spoke to the township council at its meeting Tuesday about the operations of the court in the six months since on-site municipal court sessions ended and virtual court sessions began. Since then, she said, 571 cases have been completed and in-person trials, if requested, can resume sometime in mid-October to early November utilizing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) health and safety guidelines.

She said the virtual court sessions will likely be a way of life moving forward, saying that the state is pushing the concept. That comment led Mayor Alexander Smith to note that many of the parking spaces in the existing township lot adjacent to the municipal building are used by those attending court sessions, so virtual court sessions will result in far fewer parking spaces being needed at a future site of the municipal building and the municipal court.

Township resident Malcolm Nettingham, a member of the famed Tuskegee Airmen in World War II, died on Monday, September 14, at age 101. Mayor Smith spoke for several minutes about Mr. Nettingham, saying that “longevity is not his major accomplishment.” He outlined Mr. Nettingham’s biography and his barrier-breaking military career, which led to him being awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. Mr. Nettingham moved to Scotch Plains in 1923 and was a 1936 graduate of the high school. The mayor said township flags will be lowered to half-mast until Thursday, October 1, Mr. Nettingham’s birthday. His “patriotism and dedicated service,” the mayor said, “made him a hero and a role model.”

Councilwoman Elizabeth Stamler suggested naming a street in his honor, and Councilman Roshan White saluted Mr. Nettingham’s role in the desegregation of the military and how it allowed him to serve.

The council approved two parking ordinances, one of which restricts parking on a portion of Goodman’s Crossing and the other restricting parking on Westfield Road between Route 22 and Valley Road.

Councilman White spoke about the just-completed listening tour held by the Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Committee. He said the committee will discuss and assess the data and information collected over the past few months and then issue a report with recommendations. The committee was formed early last year by the Scotch Plains and Fanwood governing bodies along with the board of education, the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Ministerium and Social Justice Matters in the wake of several racial incidents at the high school and elsewhere. The committee is seeking ways to improve relations and lessen tensions among students as well as between the community and the police departments. Mayor Smith called the listening tour “powerful.”

Valerie Aguirre was sworn in as the newest police officer, which brings the police department up to full strength, according to the mayor. Dan Sullivan, a Scotch Plains Rescue Squad member, was recognized by the council for his 50th anniversary of service with the squad. The Raiders Championship baseball 10-U, 11-U and 13-U teams also were honored for their triumphs in the summer league. Additionally, township residents Kristy and Daniel Richardson were saluted for their life-saving efforts while visiting Byram Township in Sussex County. Councilwoman Stamler read a proclamation declaring September as Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.