NJ Supreme Court sets framework for future remote and in-person proceedings

On November 18, 2021, the NJ Supreme Court issued an Order setting forth the framework for whether court proceedings should be conducted remotely or in-person now and when the COVID-19 pandemic officially ends.

As per the Order, judges are given discretion to determine whether proceedings should be conducted remotely or in-person, but establishes principles to follow in making such determinations. For instance, criminal jury trials must be conducted in-person. Matters before the Supreme Court and the Appellate Division should generally proceed in-person. Proceedings that involve a reasonable likelihood of the imposition of a jail sentence should also be conducted in-person, but can be conducted remotely with the consent of all parties. All other routine matters should generally proceed virtually, unless the judge determines that there is a reason to require the parties to appear in-person.

Chief Supreme Court Justice Stuart Rabner wrote that the 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.”

The Order highlights that, in the past 18 months, judges have conducted more than 260,000 virtual court events involving more than 2.7 million participants, and municipal courts have conducted more than 3 million events.

The Order apparently relied on the input of judges and staff throughout the State, as well as more than 100 comments received from the general public and various legal stakeholders, including the NJ State Bar Association and practicing attorneys.

“Attorneys and parties have praised the reduced time and cost associated with virtual proceedings for brief and straightforward matters,” Chief Justice Rabner wrote. “They also noted there are fewer scheduling conflicts and requests for continuances. 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.”

The provision of the Order are subject to ongoing review.

For more information on criminal proceedings during the COVID-19 pandemic, contact Alissa D. Hascup, Esq. for a free consultation.