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Category Archives: Bergen County Superior Court

Our criminal part judges continue to handle criminal matters by utilizing technology to enable the parties to appear remotely.

Below are the assigned criminal part judges to handle emergent matters for the months of October, November, and December as set forth in the schedule below. Of course, this schedule is subject to any Phase changes that may be implemented.

The schedule is as follows:

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Directive #23-06 (“Grand Jury Standards – Implementation and Questionnaire”) promulgated standard grand jury policies and procedures, including a standard charge to the grand jury (Attachment 3) and a standard oath of secrecy (Attachment 5). The grand jury standards as promulgated by directive #23-06 have been implemented statewide for over a decade.

In response to the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the Supreme Court on May 14, 2020 authorized a pilot program for virtual (video) grand jury sessions in Mercer and Bergen counties. Consistent with the Court’s May 14, 2020 Order, the Judiciary on May 15, 2020 issued a supplement to directive #23-06, which promulgated on a temporary basis a supplement to Attachment A (grand jury charge) and a supplement to Attachment B (secrecy oath). Those approved supplements have been issued to all county and state grand jurors convening in a virtual format during COVID-19.

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The Supreme Court by Order dated June 9, 2020 has required that all people who enter or occupy court facilities (including Judiciary areas of mixed-use facilities) must wear masks or other face coverings in community settings (e.g., entranceways, indoor parking garages) and common areas (e.g., courtrooms, elevators). It incorporates certain limited exceptions, including for medical need. The Court’s June 9, 2020 Order also references judicial discretion to remove their face coverings or masks when on the bench and to direct others to do so as long as social distancing is maintained.

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The Supreme Court’s Post-Pandemic Plan (issued June 10, 2020) outlined in general terms the transition from Phase 1 (fully remote operations) to Phase 2 (incremental return of limited numbers of judges and court staff to Judiciary facilities). Based on current public health recommendations and COVID-19 trends, the New Jersey courts will be expanding the scope of on-site court events, including for new jury trials, but without transitioning fully to Phase 3 as previously anticipated. For lack of a better description, the courts are now moving to “Phase 2.5.” This notice provides additional guidance as to events that may under appropriate circumstances be conducted on-site even while our court system overall continues to follow a “remote first” model.

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

This September 17, 2020 Eighth Omnibus Order continues certain adjustments necessitated during the COVID-19 period, including the prioritization of remote proceedings and permission for electronic signatures, remote or socially distanced depositions, and electronic service on the State of New Jersey. It also reinforces provisions of the Court’s September 17, 2020 Order on the first jury trials, including as to the additional option of conducting voir dire in a fully virtual format with the consent of the attorneys and parties and the approval of the trial judge.

The September 17, 2020 Eighth Omnibus Order includes the following new or updated provisions:

  • Grand Jury. Confirming that all counties are virtually selecting new grand jury panels, and providing that grand juries in all counties will be equipped and ready to convene in a virtual format on or before December 1, 2020;
  • Criminal. Continuing excludable time provisions through October 11, 2020; and
  • Civil. Relaxing Rule 4:64-8(b) during the term of the Federal Housing Administration’s foreclosure and eviction moratorium for borrowers with FHA-insured Single Family mortgages covered under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and HUD Agency Letter 2020-27, so as to provide that a plaintiff will not be required to file a new complaint to reinstate a foreclosure matter that has been dismissed twice for lack of prosecution.

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

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

Acting Administrative Director of the Courts

Dated: September 17, 2020

NOTICE (FULL NOTICE) Eighth Omnibus Order on Court Operations and Legal Practice.pdf

 

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

NOTICE TO THE BAR

From Bergen County Assignment Judge, Bonnie J. Mizdol, A.J.S.C 

In order to streamline the process and make Early Disposition Court (EDC) efficient and effective, I have determined to issue the following directive:

With regard to discovery, in accordance with R.3:13-3a, the prosecutor shall “provide all available relevant material” in the case two weeks prior to the EDC date. For the Special Victim Unit (SVU) cases, the EDC date shall occur six (6) weeks from the date defendant appears in Central Judicial Processing (CJP) Court. For all other cases, the EDC date shall occur four (4) weeks from the CJP date. The prosecutor’s plea offer shall accompany discovery. Defendant’s counter-offer, if any, shall be provided to the prosecutor within one (1) week of receipt of the plea offer, provided discovery has been exchanged. The parties shall engage in ongoing discussions of the case prior to the EDC date. Judiciary staff shall send a communication to the attorneys within three days of the EDC date seeking confirmation that the steps outlined above have been taken. A checklist indicating whether the tasks have been accomplished shall be placed in the EDC file.

If defendant wishes to enter a plea, but defense counsel requires additional time to discuss the details of the plea with the defendant, the EDC judge shall have the discretion to grant a one week adjournment. To the greatest extent possible, the plea documentation should be filled out prior to the EDC court session. Where appropriate, with the consent of the parties, the EDC judge shall facilitate the settlement of cases by engaging in discussions with the parties. Any such case conferenced by the EDC judge shall be retained by the judge for sentencing. Currently, EDC sentences are assigned to other judges; that process shall continue. The EDC judge will sentence only those cases conferenced by that judge.

This directive shall take effect immediately.

Early Disposition Court (EDC).pdf