NJ Justice System Begins to Emerge from Coronavirus with Remote Court Proceedings

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has brought much of New Jersey to a halt, including criminal jury trials, which remain suspended through May 31 under an omnibus order of the New Jersey Supreme Court.

However, the Court’s order has begun to re-open other aspects of the New Jersey criminal justice system. For example, Municipal Court sessions were allowed to resume as of May 11. Municipal Court proceedings may be conducted remotely by phone or video as the available facilities, technology and other resources make possible.

New Jersey municipal courts hear cases about traffic tickets, violations of municipal laws, fish and game laws, and disorderly persons and petty disorderly persons offenses.

The Court said in a news release that, “Since March 16 when the Judiciary began working remotely because of COVID19, New Jersey courts have conducted more than 12,000 court proceedings – including hearings on motions, settlement and status conferences, arraignments, detention hearings, and municipal appeals – with more than 80,000 participants.”

If you know that you have a court date pending, you should confirm its status by contacting your attorney or your local municipal court or county Superior Court, which hears more serious cases. Criminal defense clients of The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall can contact the firm at (877) 450-8301 to check on the status of their case. We are prepared to file motions for release on behalf of clients under custody who are considered highly vulnerable to COVID-19 exposure such as individuals with underlying health conditions, especially respiratory illness.

Additional New Jersey Court Closures Due to COVID-19

The NJ Supreme Court’s order also directs that:

  • All current grand jury empanelment dates and sessions, including for State Grand Jury, are cancelled through May 31.
  • Landlord/tenant trials are suspended until May 31. Foreclosure motions or judgments received after March 1 will not be reviewed or recommended until further notice. The suspension of evictions of residential tenants continues.
  • Special Civil Part (DC) and Small Claims trials are suspended through May 31.
  • No new civil trials will be conducted until further notice.

The suspension of court regarding landlord/tenant, special civil and small claims cases is not meant to halt settlement negotiations, the Court said.

In its initial order suspending in-person Superior Court proceedings in mid-March, the Court noted that critical court operations necessary to public safety or the administration of justice would continue. Applications for extreme risk protective orders and domestic violence temporary restraining orders submitted through local police departments will continue to be processed. The court also will continue to hold first appearance hearings and pretrial detention hearings.

However, local court offices are closed for in-person submissions. Filings may be submitted electronically or by mail or dropped off at a designated drop-box. Court-ordered payments may be sent by mail or made electronically.

In April, the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey postponed all federal court jury trials scheduled before May 31 and directed the Office of the Federal Public Defender to handle all petitions from detainees and inmates seeking emergency release from confinement.

The Impact of the Coronavirus Outbreak on the Criminal Justice System

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Since March, courts at every level across the country have postponed or canceled proceedings in response to the spread of coronavirus, and police have adopted measures to reduce their potential exposure to the virus.

A Penn State University study of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the criminal justice system found that the suspension of many court activities will create a considerable backlog. But the lack of trials and sentencing is credited with reducing population growth within the correctional system during the pandemic.

On March 22, New Jersey Chief Justice Stuart Rabner signed an order authorizing the release of inmates serving certain types of sentences in county jails. The order applies to prisoners jailed for probation violations as well as to those convicted in municipal courts or sentenced in Superior Court for low-level crimes. The New York Times said the release of as many as 1,000 people from New Jersey jails was believed to be the nation’s broadest effort to address the risks of coronavirus spreading among the incarcerated.

A USA Today analysis of crime data published by 53 law enforcement agencies in two dozen states found that police logged dramatically fewer calls for service, crime incidents and arrests in the last two weeks of March than each of the previous six weeks. At the same time, calls for domestic disturbances and violence surged by 10% to 30% among many police agencies that contributed data.

The decrease in crime “may be due to social distancing practices and the closure of businesses as well as changes in police enforcement,” Penn State researchers said. “Still, this drop should provide at least some temporary relief to the courts and corrections, although the potential for a return to previous crime patterns after the lifting of the statewide lockdown is unclear.”

Contact Our New Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyers

If you are facing criminal charges in New Jersey and do not have a lawyer, you need one to protect your rights. If you have questions about the next steps in your criminal case, it’s important to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Disruptions and delays in the judicial system caused by Coronavirus raise questions of fairness that courts must eventually decide.

The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall will work aggressively to protect your rights in criminal matters anywhere in the state of New Jersey. Our legal team of former prosecutors and public defenders has more than 200 years of combined experience. The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall is one of the largest and best-resourced legal defense teams in New Jersey. We have multiple offices across New Jersey, allowing us to respond to your needs 24/7.

Contact our attorneys online or phone at (877) 450-8301 today for a prompt response.