NJ Supreme Court issues order to extend the time period of court closures and modified procedures

NEW UPDATE FOR ALL CRIMINAL, TRAFFIC, MUNICIPAL AND RESTRAINING ORDER MATTERS

At a Glance: 

  • The New Jersey Supreme Court has entered an Order extending the time period of court closures and modified procedures
  • All Criminal Jury trials are suspended until further notice
  • All non-trial criminal matters will continue remotely via Zoom conference call
  • Municipal Courts are closed except for emergent matters until April 26, 2020
  • Restraining Orders are still being issued, but the way they are litigated will depend on the County and Judge

On March 27, 2020, the Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court issued another Order extending the time period of court closures and modified procedures.  This Order generally expanded the time periods included in the last Order of the Court.

What does this mean for your case?

SUPERIOR COURT (FELONY) CRIMINAL MATTERS

The Order suspends all jury trial until further notice.  If your case is scheduled for trial, you should expect that it will be considerably delayed.  Most of the time trials which involve a defendant who is detained (incarcerated) are given priority over trials wherein a defendant is not incarcerated.  Once trials begin again, there will almost certainly be a “backlog” of cases wherein the defendant is incarcerated that must be tried before the Courts will begin trying matters wherein a defendant is not incarcerated.

For those of you who have a relative who is incarcerated, the normal rules of Court require a speedy trial.  A speedy trial is generally required to commence within 270 days of a defendant’s detention (incarceration). However, the law can extend that time period for certain reasons.  The Order has extended the time period for speedy trial as “excludable time.” As such, a defendant who is incarcerated can also expect that their trial will be delayed and they will remain incarcerated absent other extenuating circumstances.

For all proceedings other than a trial, the courts will continue to operate remotely.  Most Courts are utilizing Zoom for video conferencing. While this may be satisfactory for procedural hearings, there are real concerns utilizing video conferencing and other remote mechanisms for substantive litigation.  For example, a defendant who is required to proceed with a Motion to Suppress Evidence remotely may be denied their Constitutional Right of Confrontation if their attorney is denied an opportunity to cross examine a law enforcement officer in person.  The Order does not directly address this issue.

MUNICIPAL COURT CRIMINAL AND TRAFFIC MATTERS

The Order suspends virtually all municipal court proceedings through April 26, 2020.  While certain emergent matters will still be addressed by the Court, typical traffic tickets and criminal cases are delayed until that point.

FAMILY COURT – RESTRAINING ORDERS

The Courts have made very clear that victims of domestic violence are still entitled to protections under the Domestic Violence laws.  However, Restraining Orders are procedurally split into two (2) separate proceedings. First, a Judge must issue a Temporary Restraining Order.  These matters have been addressed remotely for years, often times over the telephone. The issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order requires testimony from the plaintiff (alleged victim) alone and is an ex parte proceeding, meaning that the defendant (person accused) does not have a right to participate in the proceeding.  However, a Temporary Restraining Order is only valid for a specific period of time (typically about ten (10) days).

To make the Temporary Restraining Order permanent (or Final) a Judge must conduct a full hearing, including testimony.  While a Restraining Order matter is civil and not criminal, there remains a concern that conducting a remote hearing, via video conferencing or other mechanism, may deny litigants their right to a full cross examination and restrict a Judge’s ability to make credibility determinations.  There are no specific rules in the Order addressing the litigation of Restraining Order Matters. As a result, different Judges are treating these cases in different ways.

WE ARE HERE TO HELP

If you have questions regarding the Coronavirus and its impact on your case, the Attorneys at Rosenberg | Perry & Associates offer decades of litigation experience.  The Rules and Procedures used in your case during the quarantine are rapidly changing. We are here to help.