Updates on the usage of Video Conferencing in New Jersey Court’s due to COVID-19
Updated on 4/27/20
On April 20, 2020, the New Jersey Supreme Court released an Order providing further guidance to the judiciary. It reiterated that most court events which can be handled via video conferencing or phone calls will proceed as scheduled, regardless of any objection by a participating party of attorney. However, the following court events are ordered only to proceed via video with the consent of both parties:
- Sentencing hearings in Criminal, Family, and Municipal Matters;
- Juvenile delinquency adjudications;
- Evidentiary hearings and bench trials in Criminal matters;
- Evidentiary hearings and trials in Municipal matters that involve a reasonable likelihood of a jail sentence or loss or suspension of a driver’s license;
- Termination of parental rights trails; and
- Hearings for an adjudication of incapacity and appointment of a permanent guardian.
Furthermore, because of the specific health risk inmates at the county jails and state prisons are facing, this Order authorizes judges to put a stay on the commencement of custodial terms of criminal sentences. Said differently, judges are now empowered to postpone a term of confinement until after the COVID-19 crisis has passed.
Finally, because there is no way for the public to access these court proceedings, the judiciary is instructed to prioritize online livestreaming for most criminal proceedings. For any other public proceeding, a request has to be emailed to the Judge handling that matter in order for it to be live streamed.
While the New Jersey judiciary is preparing to move cases forward during the COVID-19 pandemic, defendants’ rights are being limited. There is a real question as to whether or not defendants’ constitutional right are being violated and how those issues will be addressed moving forward.
If you need assistance with a legal matter, contact Rosenberg | Perry & Associates. We are here to help. Contact us if you need assistance with criminal matters, DUI, traffic matters, Restraining Orders, Personal Injury, or Wills.
Initial Blog post from 4/13/20 included below:
Federal Courts are allowing Proceedings by way of Video Conference
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Federal Court rules prohibited photography and broadcasting inside of a courtroom. In a largely unprecedented move, the Federal Courts have allowed Judicial Proceedings to be conducted by Audio and Video Conferencing. On March 31, 2020, the Judicial Conference, the body that governs the Federal Courts, approved this Rule change citing the goal of reducing the spread of COVID-19. This breaks with historic precedent banning video cameras in the Federal Courts.
While the orderly functioning of the Courts is of paramount importance in our democracy, the use of Audio and Video Conferencing raises several issues of concern.
First, the Federal Courts have not articulated the availability of proceedings to the general public. Our Courts have classically remained open to the public to avoid abuse of power ensure oversight over judicial proceedings. There are also First Amendment considerations in banning public access to the Courts.
Second, in any proceeding wherein a witness is called to testify there are additional due process concerns. Video testimony may deprive a Judge the opportunity to make a fully informed decision as to a witness’ credibility. A Judge may be unable to fully appreciate a witness’ demeanor and body language during video testimony.
Third, an attorney and client are deprived the ability to confer regarding a witness’ testimony as it happens because their communication would be captured by the audio/visual equipment. Stated differently: A client cannot “whisper” his or her thoughts regarding a witness’ testimony to his or her counsel, thus depriving the defendant of a full cross examination as guaranteed by the United States Constitution.
Finally, video testimony may present logistical issues with respect to presenting documentation and other evidence to a witness in Court, depending upon the complexity of the case and evidence.
If you are facing the uncertainty of criminal charges in the new COVID-19 world, the attorneys and Rosenberg | Perry & Associates are here to help. Our Firm remains open and willing to answer any questions you may have.