Like in most jurisdictions across the country, the New Jersey Judiciary has been busy addressing the growing public health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic so as to allow Court operations to continue in a safe and practical manner. In the recent weeks, the Judiciary has issued a number of Orders which have outlined the changes implemented to resume operations of the Courts throughout the State in order to adhere to the various Federal, State, County and Local directives enacted to protect the general public.
New Jersey Chief Justice Stuart Rabner issued an Order on March 27, 2020 codifying various changes and supplements to the Court Rules and procedures to meet the above objectives. A complete copy of Chief Justice Rabner’s Order can be viewed here.
- There will be no new civil or criminal jury trials conducted until further notice, and all Special Civil Part and Small Claims trial calendars are suspended through April 26, 2020;
- The statute of limitations for matters in all courts, for purposes of filing deadlines, the period from March 28 through April 26, 2020 shall be deemed the same as a legal holiday, thus tolling all deadlines to April 26, 2020;
- All discovery deadlines and end dates, deadlines for filing Affidavits of Merit in medical and professional malpractice cases, and time period for service of valid and timely Notices of Tort Claim all have been extended through April 26, 2020;
- All Civil Arbitration sessions scheduled from March 16 to April 10, 2020 have been postponed, and Civil Arbitration sessions scheduled from April 11 to April 26, 2020 will be rescheduled. Civil Arbitration sessions will resume on April 27, 2020, with participation in any session to be via video and/or telephone conference;
- To the extent practicable, depositions should be conducted remotely, and court reporters may administer and accept oaths remotely through April 26, 2020;
- To the extent practicable, all court matters including hearings, conferences, and arguments will be conducted by video or phone, with in-person appearances only permitted in emergency situations;
- All depositions of any doctors, nurses or healthcare professionals responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency are suspended through April 26, 2020, unless the appearance/deposition is requested by the doctor, nurse or healthcare professional, or are for matters related to COVID-19; and
- All Court Rules requiring original signatures on filings are relaxed so as to permit electronic signatures to be used in all filing processes temporarily authorized to be used during the COVID-19 crisis.
Indeed, the list of changes outlined in Chief Just Rabner’s most recent Order aims to further modify the Court’s Rules and Procedures in effort to prevent the justice system to come to a screeching halt during this unprecedented time. Given the fluidity of the pandemic and the ever-changing response by government officials, it is possible that these revisions may be further expanded. GRSLBG&B will continue monitor for further developments and provide updates.