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Category Archives: New Jersey Supreme Court and Administrative Office of the Courts

NOTICE TO THE BAR

In response to the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency, the New Jersey Judiciary is implementing all possible measures to apply social distancing in current court operations, consistent with the recommendations of the New Jersey Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control. To that end, the Judiciary has transitioned to a court system in which many matters are proceeding via video or telephone during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Because this need may continue for many months based on current information, Megan’s Law proceedings should be conducted remotely by video or telephone for public safety and notification to the public about sex offenders. Therefore, I am issuing the attached guidance for judges to consider when deciding which Megan’s Law proceedings can be handled remotely by video or telephone during this COVID-19 crisis.

In making this determination, Megan’s Law judges and designated court staff should work with their Megan’s Law prosecutors and public defenders to review all cases pending judicial review. Private counsel should also be consulted, as matters with defense counsel for the most part should be able to proceed remotely by video or telephone. However, cases with expert testimony may need to be adjourned on a case-by-case basis at the court’s discretion. Where the registrant can only participate remotely by phone, the court should obtain the consent of the parties before conducting the hearing. Cases with registrants who do not have access to telephones, computers, or other electronic devices will need to be adjourned at this time. Alternatively, defense counsel may indicate that the matter can proceed because the registrant has waived the right to be present.

For pro se matters, court staff will need to work with the prosecutor’s office to obtain the registrant’s contact information to send the notices for the scheduled court date. Depending on local practices, the prosecutor’s office may be responsible for providing this information. In those counties, court staff should confirm that notices were sent by the prosecutor’s office, and whether there was a response by the registrant.

Additionally, court staff are responsible for providing the parties with the information on the technology that will be used for the remote proceeding (the link and the instructions to participate remotely via video or phone). The preferred technology for these proceedings is Microsoft Teams.

Any questions regarding Directive #16-20 may be directed to Assistant Director Sue Callaghan (Criminal Practice Division) via email at sue.callaghan@njcourts.gov or by phone at 609-815-2900 ext. 55300.

Directive #16-20 – _Guidance for Megan’s Law Proceedings During the COVID-19 Pandemic.pdf

NOTICE TO THE BAR

The Supreme Court has entered an order clarifying four provisions of the Court’s April 24, 2020 Second Omnibus Order regarding court operations during the COVID-19 crisis.

The May 15, 2020 Order, a copy of which is attached, clarifies the following aspects of remote court operations:

  1. The Office of Foreclosure will continue to review and recommend non-dispositive motions (e.g. , motions to substitute plaintiff, motion to enter default, motion for surplus funds and motions to correct defendant), but will not recommend judgments or dispositive motions received on or after March 1, 2020 pending further court order;
  2. The suspension of the requirement of courtesy copies as already applied to Civil matters also extends to Family matrimonial (FM) matters, meaning that courtesy copies are not required so long as the total submission (including appendices and attachments) does not exceed 35 pages;
  3. The ongoing suspension of trial calendars in Special Civil (DC) and Small Claims (SC) does not prevent attempts to settle those matters or requests in an individual case to proceed to trial. Judges may conduct DC and SC trials remotely with the consent of all parties; and
  4. In addition to certified copies and exemplified copies, and other categories covered by the March 27, 2020 First Omnibus Order, electronic signatures are permitted for documents to which the seal of the court is affixed by the Superior Court Clerk (including but not limited to orders, Judgments of Conviction, Judgments of Divorce, Qualified Domestic Relations Orders, and writs of execution).

Questions on this notice should be directed to the Office of the Administrative Director at (609) 376-3000.

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

Administrative Director of the Courts

Dated: May 15, 2020

Notice and Order – Clarification of Four Provisions of the Court’s Second Omnibus Order Regarding Court Operations During the COVID-19 Crisis.pdf

NOTICE TO THE BAR

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 COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the New Jersey courts have transitioned from in-person to virtual court proceedings in nearly all areas. However, grand jury sessions have been suspended for two months and remain unable to resume in an in-person format based on public health risks.

The Supreme Court on May 14, 2020 authorized a pilot program for virtual (video) grand jury proceedings in Mercer and Bergen counties, as one method of enabling criminal matters to move forward during this unprecedented crisis. As outlined in the Court’s May 14, 2020 Order, a number of additional safeguards are required before those virtual (video) grand jury sessions can begin. Those precautionary measures include reissuance of the standard charge to the grand jury, plus an additional supplement to that charge, and the requirement that all grand jurors reaffirm their oath of secrecy and swear or affirm a supplement to that oath. Consistent with the Court’s May 14, 2020 Order, this Supplement to Directive #23-06 promulgates on a temporary basis a supplement to Attachment A (grand jury charge) and a supplement to Attachment B (secrecy oath). Those approved supplements will be issued to all grand jurors convening in a virtual (video) format in the pilot counties.

Questions or comments regarding this Directive Supplement should be directed to the Office of the Administrative Director at (609) 376-3000.

Attachments: (1) COVID-19 Supplement to the Charge for Grand Juries

Convening in a Virtual Format (2) COVID-19 Supplement to the Oath of Secrecy for Grand Juries Convening in a Virtual Format

***Please follow the link below to view these additional attachments.***

Supplement to Grand Jury Charge and Oath of Secrecy for the Virtual Grand Jury Pilot Project (Supplement to Directive #23-06).pdf

NOTICE TO THE BAR

By Order dated May 14, 2020, the Supreme Court authorized empaneled grand juries to reconvene in a virtual (video) format, subject to modified protocols to maintain the secrecy and solemnity of the proceedings. The pilot program will begin promptly in Mercer and Bergen Counties. A copy of the Court’s Order is attached.

The Court’s action implements the recommendation of the Working Group on Remote Grand Jury Operations (Working Group), which includes representatives of the Attorney General’s Office, the Office of the Public Defender, the County Prosecutors Association of New Jersey (CPANJ), the ACLU, the New Jersey State Bar Association (NJSBA), and the private defense bar. The Working Group recommended testing virtual grand jury operations as a first step in restarting those aspects of the criminal justice process that have been stalled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Virtual grand jury sessions will be conducted using secure Zoom technology. Court staff will provide training on how to participate in virtual proceedings and real-time technical assistance during sessions. Technological devices and supports also will be provided to jurors as needed to enable effective participation. Consistent with the Court’s Order, a supplemental charge will be issued to the grand jury, and all jurors will be required to swear or affirm a supplement to the standard oath of secrecy regarding confidentiality requirements in a virtual setting.

The Supreme Court will assess the results of the pilot program in determining whether and how to expand virtual grand jury operations to additional counties and State Grand Jury.

Virtual grand jury sessions are another way that the New Jersey courts are ensuring uninterrupted access to justice during the COVID-19 crisis and as we seek to establish a new kind of normal. Questions should be directed to the Office of the Administrative Director at (609) 376-3000.

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

Administrative Director of the Courts

Dated: May 14, 2020

Notice and Order – Virtual Grand Jury Pilot Program – As Signed – 05-14-20.pdf

 

 

Follow the link below and read the updated policy from the Supreme Court of New Jersey in regards to the required usage of facemasks when inside courthouses and court facilities. This notice effectively supersedes memos and supplements established on April 3rd and April 17th.

Memo – COVID-19 – Revised Policy on Masks and Face Coverings – As Signed – 05-08-20.pdf

RE: Principles and Protocols for Virtual Court Operations During the COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic – (1) Methods of Conducting Remote Court Events; (2) Access to the Public Record; and (3) Posting of Events Guidance 

By Order dated April 20, 2020, the Supreme Court reinforced our commitment to continuing the operations of the courts during the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic. This directive implements the Court’s Order and establishes guiding principles for when and how remote court events will be conducted, including which events will by default be livestreamed and which will require individualized permission for real-time participation or viewing. Consistent with our policy of transparency and public access, we will continue to provide access to video recordings, audio recordings, and written transcripts upon request.

Guiding Principles for Sustaining Court Functions During the COVID-19 Crisis

The protocols outlined in this directive, including the recommendations for each division of the Superior Court (Civil, Criminal, Family, General Equity, Probate, Special Civil, Municipal) reflect our ongoing efforts to balance the rights and responsibilities involved in continuing court operations in a virtual rather than in-person format. These principles are as follows: Read More

This directive promulgates the attached Supreme Court Guidelines on Media Access and Electronic Devices in the Courts (“Guidelines”), as approved by the Supreme Court to be effective immediately. The Guidelines supersede the Supreme Court Guidelines on Electronic Devices in the Courtroom promulgated by Directive #08-14 ( effective February 2, 2015, as supplemented on January 28, 2015).

The updated Guidelines are founded on the premise that any attempt to define media access in and around courthouses – and to regulate access to and use of electronic devices by court users – must bridge the gap between media access concerns and court security considerations.

Please follow the link below and read the one of the recent directive from the Supreme Court of New Jersey in regards to the recent guidelines on media access and electronic devices in the courts.

Directive #11-20 – Supreme Court Guidelines on Media Access and Electronic Devices in the Courts.pdf

 

NOTICE TO THE BAR

COVID-19 – SECOND OMNIBUS ORDER ON COURT OPERATIONS AND LEGAL PRACTICE – MORE OPERATIONS TO BE CONDUCTED REMOTELY; LIMITED DISCOVERY EXTENSIONS AND TOLLING PERIODS

The New Jersey Courts are committed to continuing court operations during and after the COVID-19 public health emergency. To that end, the Supreme Court announced the next phase of remote court operations and legal practice.

Please follow the link below and read the Second Omnibus Order from the Supreme Court of New Jersey relating to the status of continuing court operations and legal practice during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Notice and Order – COVID-19 – Second Omnibus Order on Court Operations and Legal Practice – As Signed – 04-24-20.pdf

The March 31, 2020 Notice to the Bar advised that Matrimonial Early Settlement Panel (MESP) events would resume using video or telephone technology, rather than in-person sessions, beginning the week of April 27, 2020. That notice included a number of steps to be taken to ensure the scheduling and conducting of these remote MESP sessions. Those steps have since been revised. Accordingly, the following steps replace the steps set forth in the March 31 notice: Read More