Both criminal and civil trials were suspended here in New Jersey since the onset of the pandemic. Now the Supreme Court announced that trials would begin again in September. Jury selection will be a combination of in-person proceedings as well as remote. The hearings will be in-person with all social distancing protocols observed in the courthouse.
This ideally means that around 5,000 defendants (around 2,700 indicted) who remain in jail pretrial will see their cases move forward. The court’s goal is to keep everyone safe while restarting the judicial system, but there is no telling if the plan will work.
“This is a temporary solution to an unprecedented situation,” Chief Justice Stuart Rabner said in a statement. “We cannot predict when jury trials will be able to resume in the same manner they were held pre-COVID 19. Nor can we leave them on hold indefinitely. The Judiciary has a responsibility to ensure the fair and timely administration of justice, and resuming jury trials is a key part of fulfilling that responsibility.”
Space restrictions and other changes in effect
There are other changes, as well. These include using multiple courtrooms for a trial and limited access to the courtrooms in deference to social distancing. Loved ones trying to provide support to defendants will need to plan if they are allowed to attend a trial. Also, though the judiciary resumes, it will be in less than regular numbers to accommodate the extra space needed. Jury trials will begin first in the Atlantic/Cape May; Bergen; and Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem vicinages. Criminal cases will take priority, while the courts will add civil cases later.
Attorneys can answer questions about stalled cases
Since the details could change at any time, defendants and family members should speak with their attorneys to discuss this unprecedented trial format and other unique issues related to the case.