COVID-19- NEW JERSEY COURTS POST-PANDEMIC PLANTRANSITION
FROM PHASE 1 (REMOTE OPERATIONS) TO PHASE 2 (LIMITED ONSITE PRESENCE AND IN-PERSON COURT EVENTS)
On June 22, 2020, the NJ State courthouses saw a limited return of in-person proceedings. According to the Supreme Court of New Jersey, courthouses will gradually transition from Phase 1 (fully remote court operations) to Phase 2 (a gradual return to courthouses and court facilities) under the New Jersey Courts Post-Pandemic Plan. Business is not back to normal. Most court hearings will be conducted remotely via Zoom. The public at large is still not permitted to enter the courtrooms, even in cases that directly concern them.
As part of the transition, courthouse occupants will be required to wear masks in non-private areas and to maintain social distancing. The potential for new jury trials will not begin until the transition to Phase 3 of the Court's plan, where the percentage of onsite judges and staff increases from 10-15% to 50-75%.
As reported by NJ.com, phase two invites 10 to 15 percent of judges and staff to be onsite. Precautions including wearing masks in non-private areas and maintaining social distancing are still required. The first phase of reopening, on June 9, only returned 5 percent of judges and staff to courtrooms. “The judiciary will continue to provide information and guidance to attorneys, litigants, and members of the public regarding the status of our court facilities and operations,” Glenn A. Grant, acting administrative director of the courts said in a statement.
Phase 2 court proceedings:
Events that will continue remotely
- Most civil, criminal, and family court proceedings
Events that may, consistent with Supreme Court Guidance, be handled in person
- Completion of suspended civil jury trials and criminal jury trials, sentencing hearings, plea hearings, and certain other criminal proceedings.
- Bench trials and other hearings that are especially complex (involving numerous parties or witnesses, or significant physical evidence) in civil, criminal, and family court matters.
- Contested hearings for adjudication of incapacity and appointment of a permanent guardian in civil court.
What will be the new normal? No one knows.