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