History of the Ombudsman Program
In 1992, the New Jersey Supreme Court Task Force on Minority Concerns held a series of public "town hall" meetings around the state. At these meetings, they learned that the public wanted to better understand the court and be able to address grievances about the legal system. Accordingly, the Task Force recommended to the Supreme Court that it direct the establishment of an Ombudsman office at the state and vicinage levels. They recommended that the office provide court information and address the public’s customer service issues or complaints. The Ombudsman program was also endorsed by the Supreme Court Committee on Women in the Courts. Ultimately, the recommendation was approved by the Supreme Court.
In 1996, the Camden Vicinage opened the first Ombudsman Office in the Judiciary. The Office was experimental in nature and was evaluated approximately two years later. The evaluation revealed that the public had responded very favorably to an office that welcomed their inquiries and offered a listening ear for their complaints.
In 1998, with approval from the Supreme Court to expand the program, the Essex Vicinage opened the first permanent Ombudsman Office in the State Judiciary.
In May of 2005, the Judicial Council approved the Ombudsman program for implementation in every vicinage.
The three primary services that the Ombudsman offers to court users is public information, court user assistance and community relations.