Freeholder President Brendan W. Gill
Newark, NJ – Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. and Freeholder President Brendan Gill announced that a new ordinance establishing the Essex County Correctional Facility Civilian Task Force will be included on the Board of Freeholders’ October 23rd meeting agenda. They also announced that retired Chief Federal Judge Jose Linares will be appointed as the Task Force’s Executive Director. Presenting the proposed ordinance and appointing its Executive Director are the first steps being taken by the County to establish the Task Force. As Executive Director, Judge Linares will collaborate with the County to nominate the other members and establish the by-laws of the task force.
“The creation of the Civilian Task Force is an initiative that we take very seriously, which is demonstrated by our nomination of Judge Linares as its Executive Director. We promised we would appoint a Civilian Task Force, and these are tremendous first steps in that direction,” DiVincenzo said. “We believe the task force will provide us with a different perspective on our Correctional Facility and provide additional transparency that will help us continue to operate the ECCF at the highest level,” he added.
“I want to commend the Administration on the creation of the Civilian Oversight Task Force. This initiative shows a strong commitment from the Administration to provide transparency in protecting the rights of all detainees being held in the Essex County Correctional Facility. The ordinance is the result of the hard work of the County Executive’s office, advocacy groups, and the ACLU. It has been my pleasure to work closely with these groups in bringing this process to fruition,” Gill stated. “I am especially pleased that this task force will be led by the Honorable Jose L. Linares and be autonomous in providing oversight of our county facility. I look forward to Essex County making history by establishing the ECCF as the FIRST county-run facility in the nation to have independent citizen oversight,” he added.
“It was an honor to have worked closely with the Administration, President Gill, the ACLU and other advocacy groups on putting this oversight committee together,” Freeholder Vice President Wayne Richardson added. “The Citizen Task Force overseeing the Essex County Correctional Facility will be the first of its kind in the nation, and it would not be possible without the afore mentioned groups working together.”
“I want to thank the County Executive, and The Board of Chosen Freeholders for giving me this opportunity to continue to serve the public as an advocate for the men and women who are detained at the Essex County Correctional Facility. Throughout my career as a Judge at the State and Federal levels, I sought to bring justice and fairness to the parties involved and serving as Executive Director of the Task Force is an extension of that,” said Linares, who early in his legal career initiated legal action against Essex County that culminated in the Federal Consent Order against the old Essex County Jail in Newark and Jail Annex in North Caldwell. (As Essex County Executive, DiVincenzo proved the conditions of the Consent Order were fulfilled and it was dismissed in 2007.)
The ordinance being listed on the Freeholders’ October 23rd meeting provides the framework to create the nine-member task force. The task force will consist of a representative from a recognized detainee advocacy group, a representative from a recognized inmate advocacy group, a member who is in good standing with the Criminal Defense Bar, a corrections expert, an individual who was formerly incarcerated, a social justice advocate, an expert in the medical field, and one member of the public. The Executive Director will be tasked with the administration of the task force. All members are nominated by the County Executive with advice and consent of the Freeholder Board. The intent of the task force is to provide transparency and accountability” of the ECCF staff, to protect the “lives, health, safety and rights of all people confined at the ECCF” and ensure the “conditions of their confinement are safe, sanitary, respectful and humane,” according to language in the proposed ordinance.
The Task Force will act independently of County government. It will have the authority to inspect the ECCF, interview corrections officers, inmates, detainees, and review systematic issues and concerns. All reports and recommendations will be distributed to the County Executive, ECCF Administration and Freeholder Board.
Judge Linares served as a Federal District Court Judge in New Jersey for over 16 years and served as Federal District Court Chief Judge for two years before retiring earlier this year. As Judge, he presided over numerous high-profile criminal cases including public corruption cases, securities fraud cases, and drug and violence related offenses. He also presided over dozens of complex civil matters including patent cases, many of which involved complicated, high-stakes disputes between generic and branded drug companies,” he added.
In addition to deftly leading the New Jersey District Court during his tenure as Chief, Judge Linares effectively changed the face of the Federal Court, when he was nominated to the bench by President George W. Bush in 2002. Upon being nominated and confirmed, Judge Linares became the first Hispanic Federal District Court Chief in New Jersey history, and the first Cuban-born Federal District Court Chief in the United States.
As Chief Judge of the New Jersey Federal District Court, Judge Linares was intimately involved in increasing the Court’s community outreach and educational programs. Judge Linares, together with his predecessor Chief Judge Simandle, were the driving force behind the Court’s 2017 sentencing Symposium that addressed and discussed new sentencing issues and alternatives. Judge Linares was also the architect of the 2018 New Jersey District Court National Opioid Symposium which brought together members of the law enforcement, medical, pharmaceutical, treatment, and recovering addicts’ communities to address and discuss potential solutions to the opioid epidemic. There were over 400 attendees at said event which was at the time said to be the largest such event in the nation.
Prior to serving as a Federal Court Judge, Judge Linares was a Superior Court Judge in the Essex County Vicinage from 2000 to 2002 and previously worked in private practice for over 20 years. He currently is a partner at the law firm of McCarter & English in Newark, where he leads the firm’s alternative dispute resolution practice. In addition, Judge Linares was an adjunct professor at Seton Hall School of Law. He is a fellow of the American Bar Association and has been honored with many legal service awards, including the New Jersey State Bar Association Distinguished Judicial Service Award, the James J. McLaughlin Professionalism Award, the Essex County Bar Civil Trial Lawyer award and the Trail Blazer award by both the Rutgers Law School and Seton Hall Law School Hispanic Law Student Associations.
Born in Cuba, Judge Linares’ family escaped Cuba to Spain after the Castro revolution and later came to the United States, settling in Newark. He is a graduate of what is now the New Jersey City University and the Beasley School of Law at Temple University.
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For Additional Information:
Lauren T. Agnew
Johana M. Caba