On January 7, 2021, Chief Justice Rabner of New Jersey’s Supreme Court issued an Order for civil jury trials to commence virtually in New Jersey beginning, for some counties, on February 1, 2021.
According to the Order, the courts will resume jury trials through a two-phase process. The first phase, beginning on February 1, 2021, will allow jury trials to proceed in only the following eight counties: Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, Salem, Monmouth, Passaic, and Union. During this first phase, consent of the parties to participate in a remote jury trial will be required. The second phase, beginning on April 5, 2021, mandates all counties in New Jersey to proceed with remote jury trials, regardless of the parties’ consent. The Order specifies the Courts will prioritize single-plaintiff and single-defendant trials with no more than five witnesses to begin the roll-out, but indicates that all civil case types are subject to virtual jury trials.
The Order further specifies that cases that are especially complex, or anticipated to require more than a few weeks to try, will only be scheduled after one or more straightforward trials have been conducted in the county. Further, cases involving healthcare professionals responding to the COVID-19 pandemic will not proceed unless requested by the healthcare professionals.
The jury selection process of all virtual trials, according to the Order, will be conducted remotely, with judges encouraged to allow greater participation by attorneys in voir dire due to the format. The Order also recommends that additional alternate jurors be selected due to the likelihood of technical problems and health issues caused by COVID. It further indicates that, although litigants should be prepared to try cases on an entirely virtual basis, courts will be allowed to utilize “hybrid” proceedings with litigants, attorneys, and witnesses potentially in the courtroom, provided that this complies with public health guidance in effect at the time.
MKCI’s attorneys stand at the ready to defend our clients at trial in whatever form that should take over the coming months. Please do not hesitate to contact our lawyers if you have questions about the resumption of jury trials in any jurisdiction.