SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- Scotch Plains Municipal Court Judge Kelly Waters got a look at her courtroom from another perspective when she attended the Township Council meeting last week to update the governing body on the progress that has been made in implementing virtual court proceedings during the pandemic.

Judge Waters said Scotch Plains court has been virtual, including pleas-by-mail, since the week of March 16.

"To date, we have completed 571 cases. We are scheduling 35-50 cases per court session," Judge Waters said. "We have between 100-120 cases scheduled per month."

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She said the court notifies defendants by mail because typically the court does not have email addresses. Some of them do not have access to Zoom. There are no bench warrants, so court attendance has been lower than normal. 

"We are compassionate because some people just cannot get online, so we are trying to do what we can to give them their day in court," Judge Waters said.

In-person trials can resume likely by mid-October to early November, following health guidelines. However, defendants will have the option to make virtual appearances, which will speed the legal process. Judge Waters said that the court system will likely look to increase its virtual processes in the future. 

Scotch Plains has been able to increase its online court capabilities thanks to an upgrade of the Wi-Fi capabilities in the council chambers, according to Township Manager Al Mirabella, who told TAPintoSPF that the signal strength and speed have increased in the building. 

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