Trials and Litigation in the Era of COVID-19 (VI): New Jersey Courts To Reopen to the Public on August 2, 2021

By: Amelia R. Lyte, Chad M. Moore Practice Area: General Liability

This series explores various issues relating to the reopening of Courts in New Jersey in the shadow of COVID-19, including the intersection of safety measures and the rights of litigants.

New Jersey has perhaps taken the biggest step yet toward the return to normalcy: opening the courthouse doors. On August 2, 2021 all courthouses in the state will open to the public. Also on that date, 75% of court staff will return to work in person and 100% set to return on September 7, 2021. The increase of in-person staff and courthouse access will also allow for the continued expansion of in-person court events. Virtual sessions will continue as an option with live proceedings.

COVID-19 precautions including point of entry checks, face masks, and social distancing will continue with individual courthouses maintaining the discretion to implement additional safety measures. Judges will also have the authority to convert proceedings from in-person to virtual or to reschedule them as needed. Regarding jury trials, in-person proceedings are to continue with appropriate safety measures in place.

The importance of this milestone cannot be overstated. The courthouse’s status as an open and public place is intimately connected to the credibility of our justice system. Therefore, opening the state’s courthouse doors to the public represents far more than just the return to normal life. Further, the return of staff to the courthouse will also likely increase efficiency and make more in-person proceedings possible. Overall accessibility to the courtroom should increase further once the courthouses are 100% staffed, particularly given the continuing option to have virtual sessions as an alternative to in-person proceedings. This change should assist with the massive backlog of cases, allow full public access to our judiciary once again, and is an overall win for litigants.

Attorneys at Hoagland Longo have extensive experience in helping litigants navigate the changing guidelines of virtual, hybrid, and in-person court proceedings. Should you need assistance or guidance, please feel free to contact Amelia Lyte and Chad Moore or call us at (732) 545-4717.