The New Jersey Supreme Court has ordered State Courts to reopen for in-person jury trials starting June 15. Due to health concerns regarding COVID-19, in-person criminal trials have essentially been suspended since November of 2020 and limited since March of last year. This recently scheduled reopening follows the previous target date of May 18. The priority will be given to cases involving currently incarcerated defendants.
A large backlog awaits
To reduce the backlog, the criminal courts have also held virtual hearings regarding plea deals and sentencing during the closure. Nevertheless, the state has an estimated 5,000 inmates in jail as they await trial. So, this is certainly good news for those awaiting trial – there were only 12 in-person criminal jury trials during the calendar year, which is down steeply from pre-pandemic times where the courts hear hundreds of cases each year.
Precautions still necessary
Judiciary has followed the lead and recommendations of the New Jersey Department of Health throughout the pandemic. Now, as public health indicators improve, vaccination rates rise, and cases go down, the state’s Supreme Court determined (based on vaccine rollout numbers) that it will be safe to resume hearing cases in courts again with up to 50% of judges and staff present in the courthouses. During the first phase of the reopening, jury selection will be virtual. All trials will observe all essential health precautions like wearing facemasks and practicing social distancing.
Civil cases have continued virtually in some counties and will, as of now, remain so. In a separate order, the Supreme Court authorized the resumption of in-person grand jury sessions. All in-person trials and other court events will follow all necessary health precautions.
Uncertain times necessitate solid legal representation
Those defendants going to trial in the days following June 15 will need aggressive yet knowledgeable legal representation to protect their rights. Those who need an attorney with experience fighting their client’s criminal charges can call the Law Office of Michael P. McGuire, LLC at 732-704-7331 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Se habla Español.