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Category Archives: Civil

The Supreme Court has provided additional guidance on the first new jury trials to resume since the mid-March suspension of trials resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. As detailed in the Court’s July 22, 2020 Order and appended Plan for Resuming Jury Trials, new jury trials will be conducted in a hybrid format involving primarily virtual selection followed by socially distanced in-person trials.

The Court’s attached September 17, 2020 Order emphasizes that the resumption of jury trials is necessary to protect the rights of criminal defendants, including more than 2,500 indicted defendants who are detained awaiting trial, and for litigants in more than 9,000 ready civil cases. As with all aspects of COVID-19 court operations, the New Jersey courts will resume hybrid jury trials in a manner that supports the health and safety of all court users.

The Court’s September 17, 2020 Order clarifies and supplements the provisions of the Court’s July 22, 2020 Order as follows:

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The COVID-19 pandemic forced the New Jersey courts to suspend jury trials in mid-March 2020. Since the onset of the public health crisis, the Supreme Court has authorized temporary modifications to jury operations in order to safely resume criminal and civil jury trials as necessary to protect the rights of the people of New Jersey. This notice provides a comprehensive update on the rollout of hybrid jury trials, which will include primarily virtual selections and socially distanced in-person trials, and answers questions posed by attorneys and jurors.

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The New Jersey courts currently are conducting limited on-site court proceedings, with in-person socially distanced jury trials scheduled to begin in late September 2020. Consistent adherence to public health requirements remains critical to supporting the health and safety of all court users. At the same time, attorneys and clients must have appropriate methods to communicate with the judge and privately during in-person court proceedings. To that end, this notice provides a list of approved options for sidebar communications and confidential attorney-client communications during jury trials and other on-site proceedings. Additional options may be considered on a case-by-case basis, with court approval, taking into consideration facilities and individual participant needs (including language access services and ADA accommodations).

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As of this date we would like to update you on COVID-19 procedures and information regarding the partial reopening of the courthouse. Please note the following:

  • We are currently in Phase 2 of statewide reopening and, in accordance with the guidelines, 15% of the courthouse staff are in the courthouse buildings.
  • The courthouse is not currently open to the public for all proceedings. We will keep you informed of a projected opening date as we receive information.
  • Probation and drug court litigants are being seen and drug testing is being done by appointment.
  • Virtual Grand Jury continues.
  • Numerous virtual proceedings in Family, Civil, Chancery, and Criminal take place on a daily basis. We have received very favorable responses from attorneys who have commented on the efficiency of these proceedings.
  • Criminal trials and Civil trials will start on a very limited basis at the end of September.
  • Municipal court is working well and efficiently using virtual platforms.
  • There is no start date for Phase 3 at this time, wherein up to 50% of staff will be allowed in the courthouse building.

There have been major safety and health measures taken with respect to the reopening:

  • When entering the courthouse building there are thermal scanners in place. If you have a temperature of 100.4 or higher, you will NOT be permitted to enter the building.
  • Signage is placed throughout the courthouse with instructions on social distancing and wearing a mask in all public areas. Please bring your mask if you plan on coming to the courts.
  • Touchless hand sanitizer units have been placed in all hallways for public use.
  • Public intake areas are having plexiglass barriers installed.
  • Efforts are underway by the county to change all the bathroom faucets and toilets “no touch” systems.
  • Disinfectant wipe downs of all touch areas i.e. doorknobs, elevator buttons etc. are being done nightly by the county.
  • Social distancing floor stickers are being placed on the floor at all entrances and customer service areas to facilitate social distancing.

We will continue to provide you with updates in the future. I wish to thank your President, Joseph Maurice and your Executive Executive Director, Frank O’Marra, for their efforts to bring updated information to the Bergen Bar members.

NOTICE: Bergen County Courthouse COVID-19 Protocols.pdf

As the court continues to explore and investigate ways to assist counsel and litigants in bringing their civil cases to a conclusion, in light of the continuing complication of the pandemic, the Civil Presiding Judge is initiating an initiative utilizing the Complimentary Dispute Resolution (CDR) technique known as “Baseball Arbitration.” Presiding Judge Polifroni observes that the court’s prior recommendation that parties waive jury trials and submit to bench trials has not proved popular with the Bar. However, it is the court’s belief that the parties may be more comfortable in submitting the dispute to a judge, without a jury, if there are specific parameters to the potential result. Read More

The Bergen County Judiciary, in conjunction with the New Jersey Judiciary, is continuing to take preventive measures to reduce risks of exposure to and transmission of the COVID-19 coronavirus.  We continue to handle as many matters as possible by telephone, Zoom or Teams platforms.  However, during Phase II of operations certain in-person proceedings are being scheduled.

This is a reminder, especially during the peak of the vacation season, that should you have an in-person proceeding scheduled and have travelled to a quarantine impacted state as contained on New Jersey’s updated Quarantine Advisory, it is incumbent upon you to inform the court as soon as possible to allow for an appropriate quarantine time period.

Please know that you will not be permitted entry into the courthouse facilities until the required 14 day quarantine period has expired from the time of your last contact within the identified state.

We are being vigilant in our efforts to ensure the safety of all in the courthouse.  Therefore, in addition to the disclosure of travel to an impacted state, you have an obligation to disclose whether you have experienced:

  1. Fever (A Temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or greater);
  2. Symptoms (Cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chills, sore throat, muscle aches and pains, loss of taste or smell, any other unexplained illness);
  3. Close contact with anyone who has exhibited any of these symptoms; or
  4. Whether someone in your household or someone you have been in close contact that has tested positive for COVID-19 (Close contact with an infected person means within 6 feet for 10 minutes or more).

Your cooperation in keeping our courthouse safe for all who enter is much appreciated.

/s/ Bonnie J. Mizdol, A.J.S.C.

Dated: August 26, 2020

The new clerks will begin their 53 weeks of service on August 25th.  There will be overlap of law clerks from August 25th to August 31st.

Due to the change in the date for the Bar Examination, now October 5th and 6th, the new clerks will be off from September 28th through October 2nd  to study and the additional two days for the exam on October  5th and 6th.

Because the rescheduling of the Bar impacts motion calendars, the motion calendars will be adjusted as follows:

Original Dates         New Dates

August 7th                     August 7th to remain the same

August 21st                   August 28th to allow for a motion day overlap

September 4th             September 11th to allow new clerks to prepare 1st motion calendar

September 18th           September 25th

October 2nd                 October 16th to allow law clerks to study and take the exam

October 30th               October 30th to remain the same

***Disclaimer – The Full Order and All Attachments are attached in the link below for your review.***

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many efforts have been and continue to be made to assist landlords and tenants affected by the public health crisis and remove barriers to justice. The Judiciary is implementing a multifaceted plan for improving the handling of Landlord/Tenant (LT) cases from the outset, including by providing litigants with information and resources. Our primary goal is to assist litigants in resolving their matters, not dispose of cases through trial or default. No party will be pressured into settling their case.

The Judiciary has engaged with tenant advocates as well as landlord representatives to create the attached informational materials that will be distributed to all parties in LT cases. In addition, every vicinage, in coordination with their Diversity, Inclusion and Community Engagement Committees and Ombudsmen, is organizing virtual LT outreach events to provide litigants and others with up to date information on current court operations. Those outreach events, conducted in partnership with key stakeholders, will highlight local community resources that provide legal, financial, and other forms of assistance relating to rental housing and mortgage payments.

This Directive sets forth the requirements of newly implemented LT case management steps, procedures, and forms for (1) service of complaints and conferences; (2) CARES Act certification of compliance; and (3) Order to Show Cause process for LT trials in limited circumstances.

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The Supreme Court has issued its Seventh Omnibus Order on Court Operations and Legal Practice during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. A copy of the Order is attached.

This July 24, 2020 Seventh Omnibus Order continues certain adjustments necessitated during the COVID-19 period, including the prioritization of remote proceedings and permission for electronic signatures, remote depositions, and electronic service on the State of New Jersey. It also concludes certain blanket suspensions and extensions (including as to discovery involving experts, affidavits of merit, relaxation of Rule 4:86 regarding guardianships of incapacitated persons, and depositions and appearances by medical professionals) while permitting extensions based on the facts and circumstances of an individual case.

The July 24, 2020 Seventh Omnibus Order includes the following key provisions:

  • Jury Trials. Authorizing new jury selections and new jury trials starting on or after September 21, 2020, with selections to be conducted in a primarily virtual format and trials to be conducted in person with social distancing, consistent with the Court’s July 22, 2020 Order;
  • Grand Jury. Providing for the virtual selection of new grand jury panels on or after September 21, 2020;
  • Criminal. Continuing excludable time provisions through September 20, 2020;
  • Special Civil Part. Clarifying that Special Civil Part (DC) and Small Claims (SC) proceedings including trials can be conducted remotely with or without consent;
  • Family – Quasi-Criminal. Providing that Family quasi-criminal (FO) trials shall proceed remotely only with the consent of the parties, and in the absence of consent such matters will proceed in person;
  • Family – Domestic Violence. Amending Phase 2 of the Judiciary’s Post Pandemic Plan to allow applicants seeking a domestic violence restraining order to appear at court without an appointment; and
  • Municipal Courts. Confirming that Municipal Court sessions will be conducted primarily using remote technologies, although in limited circumstances in-person sessions may be conducted, including for complex matters such as DWI trials and certain cases involving a consequence of magnitude.

Questions about this notice or the Court’s Seventh Omnibus Order may be directed to the Office of the Administrative at the Courts at (609) 376-3000.

/s/ Hon. Glenn A. Grant, J.A.D.

Acting Administrative Director of the Courts

Dated: July 24, 2020

NOTICE Seventh Omnibus Order on Court Operations and Legal Practice – Concluding Certain General Extensions; Continuing Individualized Adjustments.pdf

The Full Order and Notice is attached below for your convenience.

The Supreme Court has authorized the incremental resumption of new Civil and Criminal jury trials, which have been suspended for more than four months because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Attached to this notice are the Court’s July 22, 2020 Order and the Report on Resuming Jury Trials.

Atlantic/Cape May, Bergen, and Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem will be the first Vicinages to resume certain jury trials, beginning with Criminal trials involving a single detained defendant. Over the coming months, trials will gradually resume in all counties and will expand to include Civil as well as Criminal cases.

Overview

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