TRENTON, NJ - A month ago today, the judge who sits in both Barnegat and Ocean Township began hearing municipal court cases. Judge Philip M. Miller joined judges in other communities throughout the state in hearing select cases by remote access. This week, the Supreme Court released information concerning the New Jersey Courts Post-Pandemic Plan.
According to a press release issued by Chief Justice Stuart Rabner and the Supreme Court, the courts will not be starting any new criminal jury trials just yet. Incomplete suspended civil and criminal jury trials may be finished as long as all attorneys and parties consent. Additionally, the Chief Justice must grant his approval.
In-person sentencing, guilty pleas and Final Extreme Risk Protective Order (ERPO) hearings may be scheduled. The latter will only be conducted in person if the parties do not consent to proceed via remote access. Violation of monitoring and probation will also be considered for regular court appearances.
As of June 22, 10-15 percent of the state judges and their staff are expected to return to court. They will handle matters that cannot be addressed by remote access. This starts Phase 2 of the Post-Pandemic Plan.
All court employees will receive mandatory training and orientation focusing on COVID-19 safety. The premises will be cleaned, and the court will continue to follow trends regarding the ongoing pandemic. If necessary, the courts could return to solely remote access.
Those entering the courthouse will be scanned for their temperatures. Additionally, masks are required for employees, attorneys, and all litigants. Like the procedures used in stores, floors will be marked with directional areas to facilitate social distancing.
For Family Court matters, the courts will continue to handle as many matters remotely as possible. These include some emergent matters, as well as uncontested divorces, child support hearings and other matters related to children and their welfare.
Sentencing hearings for quasi-criminal matters and juvenile delinquency matters may be heard in person.
The courts plan to limit most civil proceedings to remote access. Orders to Show Cause, as well as mediations, arbitration, motions and small claims.
Complex family court and civil court matters may be scheduled for in-person hearings if it is not possible for them to be handled remotely. Contested guardianship hearings may also require court appearances.
Municipal courts proceedings as far as disorderly persons and other offenses may be handled by remote access. However, municipal judges may decide to handle DWI cases and other matters with substantial penalties in person.
Both the New Jersey Appellate Court and New Jersey Supreme Court will hear oral arguments remotely rather than by personal appearance.
In all cases, parties should wait to hear from the courts before making a personal appearance.