Continuing Virtually into the Future: Most NJ Court Matters, including Criminal, Family, Municipal, and Tax Proceedings

Carolyne Volpe Curley / West Essex Now

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Carolyne Volpe Curley
[This order] "contemplates a transition from almost all in-person court proceedings before the pandemic to a future that uses technology to provide expanded options for access, participation, timeliness, and justice." ~ NJ Chief Justice Stuart Rabner

Friday, Nov. 19, 2021

In a decision expected to be widely applauded by most residents across the state, the NJ Supreme Court issued an order yesterday that will allow most court proceedings to continue virtually for the foreseeable future. The new directive is based on input from judges, attorneys, and members of the public who experienced remote court proceedings over the past year and a half.

NJ Courts: May 2020 through Nov. 2021

Over the past 18 months:

  • 260,000 virtual court proceedings conducted by judges took place
  • 2.7 million participants participated
  • 3 million municipal courts proceedings took place

Positive Experiences

In general, judges, attorneys, and participants expressed positive remote experiences in regards to:

  • Reduced court time and costs
  • Fewer scheduling conflicts resulting in reduced court delays
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NJ Supreme Court

NOV. 18, 2021: NJ SUPREME COURT ORDER

Virtual Proceedings Allowed

Going forward, effective immediately, each Judge will decide whether the following court proceedings will be virtual or in-person; they can also decide to change to in-person if necessary.

If everyone involved with the proceeding agrees, these matters can be virtual:

Criminal, Family, Municipal, and Tax Cases:

  • Case Management Conferences
  • Intensive Supervision Program (ISP) Hearings
  • Routine Motion Arguments
  • Sentencing Hearing

Criminal matters involving:

  • Bench Trials
  • Central Judicial Processing, First Appearances on defendants in custody
  • Detention Hearings
  • Evidentiary Hearings
  • Expungements
  • Final Extreme Risk Protective Order (FERPO) Hearings
  • Gun Permit Application Hearings
  • Megan's Law Hearings
  • Municipal Appeals
  • State Prisoners proceedings

Juvenile matters involving:

  • Juvenile Delinquency Adjudications
    including Family Division plea hearings and bench trials
  • Juvenile Delinquency Evidentiary Hearings
    including waiver proceedings and violation hearings

County matters involving:

  • Actions in lieu of Prerogative Writs
  • Adjudication of Incapacity Hearings
  • Foreclosure Mediation
  • Landlord / Tenant Proceedings
  • Permanent Guardian Appointment Hearings
  • Mediations
  • Probate matters
  • Small Claims (SC) Trials
  • Special Civil (DC) Trials
  • Uncontested Guardianships of persons alleged to be incapacitated
    with the consent of all parties

Family Court matters involving:

  • Child Support Hearings to Establish or Modify
  • Parent Education Conferences and Mediations
    except for Intensive Settlement Conferences
  • Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act (SASPA) initial Protection Applications
  • Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) Applications and initial conferences
  • Termination of parental rights trials and hearings
  • Uncontested Adoptions
  • Uncontested Divorces

Tax Court matters involving:

  • Case management
  • Routine Motion Arguments

Municipal matters that involve:

  • Evidentiary Hearings
  • Hearings and Trials, except for matters with especially serious penalties

If a person is absent and unreachable, their consent for remote proceedings will not be required.
If a person wishes to participate in person during a virtual proceeding, judges may allow their requests.

“At the same time, commenters highlighted the value of bringing parties together in person at certain critical junctures, including settlement conferences and proceedings that involve especially serious penalties or consequences. In addition to those considerations, it is important to balance consistency and predictability in court operations with the need to exercise discretion based on the facts and circumstances of individual cases.“ ~ NJ Chief Justice Stuart Rabner

In-Person Proceedings Continue

The following court matters will continue to be held in person, but the judge may permit individuals to participate virtually if necessary:

Criminal, Family, Municipal, and Tax Cases:

  • Non-routine Conferences
  • Oral Arguments before NJ Supreme Court and Appellate Division
  • Superior Court Trial Settlement Conferences

Criminal matters involving:

  • Criminal Jury Trials
  • Matters involving defendants who are not in custody such as:
    Post-indictment arraignments
    Pretrial conferences to set a trial date
    Motions to revoke pretrial release

Family Court matters involving:

  • Final Restraining Orders Trials
  • Final Protective Orders Trials

Municipal Court Hearings and Trials involving:

  • A reasonable likelihood of a jail term or license suspension such as DWI
  • Multiple witnesses, interpreting services, or complex evidence
  • Matters in which the defendant has failed to appear for two or more virtual proceedings and in which a warrant or license suspension cannot be ordered
  • Pretrial Conferences when the defendant’s in-person appearance is appropriate to resolve code enforcement, public nuisance, and public health and safety matters

Not Yet Determined: Remote v. In-Person

The following matters will continue to be conducted virtually until the NJ Supreme Court provides further guidance:

  • Krol Hearings
  • Involuntary Civil Commitment Proceedings
  • Sexually Violent Predator Act Hearings
  • Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity Hearings
  • Civil Arbitrations
  • Matrimonial Early Settlement Panels (MESP)
  • Jury Selections
  • Some civil jury trials

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Further Information:

New Jersey Supreme Court
Stuart Rabner, Chief Justice
HeatherJoy Baker, Clerk of Supreme Court
RJ Hughes Justice Complex, PO Box 970, Trenton, NJ 08625-0970
609-815-2955

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Carolyne Volpe Curley, a Certified New Jersey Press Journalist since 2012, has appeared on nationally televised productions and interviewed by the international press. Volpe Curley publishes West Essex NOW, a hyperlocal news site covering Essex County, NJ. Volpe Curley graduated from Lafayette College in 1986, with a BA in both English and Government, and a minor in Women Studies and Religion.

Essex County, NJ
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