COVID-19 Postponed All Jury Trials in New Jersey: When will Criminal Jury Trials Start Again?
The New Jersey Supreme Court is starting to slowly try and start in person jury trials.
On September 18, 2020, the New Jersey Supreme Court released its Eighth Omnibus Order on Court Operations and Legal Proceedings. These Orders detail significant changes implemented by the New Jersey Judiciary as to the resumption of in-person events at court facilities.
The September 18, 2020, Order clarifies that Jurors have been summoned for new jury trials in Bergen, Atlantic, Cumberland, Mercer and Passaic Counties. Jury selection in other jurisdictions is scheduled to begin by the end of this year. Currently, the Judiciary is testing a hybrid voir dire in which jurors will initially be summoned in a virtual format. After the initial jury selection, the court will move onto in-person jury selection.
The Order further clarifies that detained criminal defendants will be the priority when scheduling in person trials. New Jersey law provides that detained criminal defendants are entitled to a speedy trial and cannot be detained for a lengthy period of time. However, with the onset of the COVID pandemic, there have been no in-person criminal trials. As such, there are hundreds of inmates detained who are being held without bail (and without the possibility of release) pending their jury trial. These legal issues have led to the New Jersey Supreme Court prioritizing trials for defendants who are currently being held on an indefinite basis.
These restrictions as to in-person proceedings are only applicable to New Jersey’s Superior Court criminal trials. Limited Municipal Court criminal trials are proceeding. New Jersey’s Municipal Courts only have jurisdiction over Disorderly Persons criminal offenses. These are offenses that carry with them a maximum of six (6) months county jail time if convicted. Importantly, unlike Superior Court criminal trials, defendants in Municipal Court are not entitled to a jury trial. Said differently, the Judge in Municipal Court makes the final finding of guilty. Since the courtroom does not have to accommodate twelve (12) jurors, there are fewer restrictions as to whether in-person Municipal Court criminal trials can proceed. This Order clarifies that in-person trials are available in the Municipal Court for complex cases, namely DUIs.
Finally, this Order allows for landlords to apply for an Order to Show Cause for an eviction. The basis for this action cannot be the non-payment of rent and may only be filed in emergency circumstances. For example, the Order contemplates that this remedy should be used in emergency situations by a landlord in the case of threats against the landlord, theft, or drug offenses occurring on the property.
Contact Rosenberg | Perry & Associates
If you have questions about criminal trials, drug court, criminal charges, DUI or Restraining Orders in New Jersey, contact the attorneys at Rosenberg Perry & Associates. We provide free consultations and are happy to help you with your case.
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