Following COVID-19 Closure, New Jersey Courts Plan to Restart Criminal Trials in September
Posted by Scott Gorman - August 31, 2020

After months of not holding trials due to the COVID-19 crisis, on July 22, 2020, the New Jersey Courts announced plans to resume criminal trials in September. The announcement does not identify a specific date on which trials will resume, but notes that, “[t]he plan is to use a combination of remote and in-person proceedings to select juries, and to conduct live trials with social distancing in courthouses.”

Not all postponed trials will be on the docket immediately. According to the formal Notice to the Bar issued by the New Jersey Supreme Court:

“Atlantic/Cape May, Bergen, and Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem will be the first Vicinages to resume certain jury trials, beginning with Criminal trials involving a single detained defendant. Over the coming months, trials will gradually resume in all counties . . . .”

Which Cases Will Be Scheduled for Trial First?

Currently, nearly 5,000 defendants are in jail awaiting their trials. This represents a significant backlog, and it will take months for the courts to work through all of their pending cases—and this doesn’t account for additional charges filed from the date of the announcement onward.

This, combined with the courts’ measured approach to resuming trial operations, means that most defendants can still expect significant delays. But, if you receive a trial date, what you can expect during the COVID-19 crisis is very different from what you could have expected just six months ago.

The New Jersey Courts’ announcement indicates that judges will work with attorneys to determine which cases should be prioritized, with preference given to defendants, “who are detained and have no co-defendants.” Defendants who do not meet these criteria should expect to continue to wait for their criminal cases to resume.

What Can You Expect if Your New Jersey Criminal Case Goes to Trial During the COVID-19 Crisis?

While the courts and prosecutors remain obligated to observe criminal defendants’ constitutional rights, procedures will be very different when trials resume. The Notice to the Bar indicates that these procedures are still being determined, and it is expected that they will change over time. Currently, however, some of the New Jersey Courts’ plans include:

  • Jury selection conducted using a “hybrid” process that involves virtual and in-person procedures
  • Only one to three trials conducted simultaneously in any courthouse at any time
  • “Socially distanced in-person trial[s]” during which all guidance from the CDC and the New Jersey Department of Health will be observed
  • Enforcement of social distancing to prevent close contact between trial participants
  • Allowing defendants and their attorneys to examine their reconfigured courtrooms in advance of trial

Questions? Request a Free Consultation with Essex County Criminal Defense Attorney Scott Gorman

If you have questions about the status of your criminal case in New Jersey, or if you need representation for a scheduled criminal trial in Essex County, we encourage you to get in touch. For a free and confidential consultation with criminal defense attorney Scott Gorman, call 201-489-9199 or contact us online now.

Published in Categories: Criminal Defense