Meet the Obscure Court Handling Bruce Springsteen’s DWI Case

Introducing the world of enclave court

2020 National Board Of Review Gala
Filmmaker Martin Scorsese and singer/songwriter Bruce Springsteen attend the 2020 National Board Of Review Gala on January 08, 2020 in New York City.
Mike Coppola/FilmMagic

News broke last week that Bruce Springsteen had been arrested on a charge of DWI in November of 2020. Details on the arrest have slowly emerged, and as more people know more about the event itself, it’s prompted a number of questions. Springsteen’s upcoming day in court will likely provide some clarification on these questions — but as it turns out, the court hearing the case provides another interesting wrinkle on this case.

Springsteen was arrested in Gateway National Recreation Area, which means that this case was not in the jurisdiction of either state or local police. Instead, a magistrate judge will handle Springsteen’s case in enclave court — and if the phrase “enclave court” doesn’t ring any bells for you, Ted Sherman has written a great overview of the process for

Defense attorney Lee Vartan described enclave court as “municipal court in the federal courthouse.” In New Jersey, this often applies to traffic violations, marijuana possession charges and DWIs at places like Fort Dix and the aforementioned Gateway National Recreation Area.

Several of the lawyers Sherman spoke with for the article suggested that the case against Springsteen isn’t particularly strong, citing things from the timing of the arrest to the accuracy of breathalyzer tests for people over the age of 70. (Springsteen is 71.) The whole article offers plenty of details about the process, and also features one particularly unsettling anecdote about an unrelated case also heard in enclave court.

Enclave court, Sherman writes, “typically meets once a month in Newark” — though given the pandemic, Springsteen’s hearing, set for February 24, will occur via Zoom. Hopefully everyone involved will disable their cat filters beforehand.

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