How Personal Injury Dockets Are Faring During COVID-19
On August 27, 2020, New Jersey released a plan to reopen courtrooms for jury trials that had previously been off-limits during the pandemic. Reopening the courts for physical in-person proceedings is the first step toward clearing the backlog of civil cases. However, safely reopening is the priority at this point as opposed to moving to clear a backlog.
You Can Expect to Get a Hearing in the Future
New Jersey now has a plan to deal with the backlog of civil court cases that have piled up since the start of COVID-19. While it may not clear the backlog immediately, the state’s plan will at least get the wheels of justice moving again for both parties to a civil lawsuit. Now, at least personal injury plaintiffs can have the expectation that they will have their day in court in the future even if the rules still require social distancing.
Previously, it was unsafe to assemble the jury in one location out of fear of the pandemic. Now, subject to certain precautions, juries can assemble again to hear cases. This does not mean that a civil trial will be held in all courtrooms due to spatial constraints. Judges will be free to integrate video proceedings into their trial as they see fit with a recognition that the actual trial will be in-person.
The Judiciary Will Try to Return to Normal
The state now recognizes that it cannot indefinitely put a halt to trials because it will violate the legal rights of parties to a civil trial. With that in mind, they are making an effort to reopen courtrooms and begin to try to return to normal operations.
The first step to clearing some of the backlog is to get trials started again. However, this does not fully address the fact that there are cases that have piled up behind the court cases that had hearings canceled during the pandemic. The state is not even promising that jury trials can resume in a fully normal manner at any point in the future. Officials are just trying to get courthouses open as safely as they can right now. This is the first step.
Many Courtrooms Cannot Accommodate Socially Distanced Juries
Even with in-person jury trials, many courtrooms throughout New Jersey are not large enough to accommodate trials with social distancing. Counties are limited in the number of trials that they can hold because of spatial constraints. Counties are dealing with this by ensuring that the courtrooms are reserved solely for trials. They intend to try as many cases in these courtrooms as the schedule permits.
In order to bring jurors into the courtroom, the judiciary will try to do as much as possible outside of the courtroom to keep jurors as safe as possible. In order to test these procedures in civil trials, New Jersey courts will start with smaller and less complex trials. The hope is that the procedures will be effective and the state’s courts can switch to larger and more complex trials in short order.
The First Priority Is Getting Started Again
The state has still not indicated what it will do in order to clear some of the backlog it is facing. The first priority for the New Jersey Judiciary is to get the courtrooms open again as soon as possible. Then, the state might address how it would move to hear more cases. Right now, the state just wants to figure out how to safely hold in-person trials. Then, at a later stage, the court will try to figure out how to hear more cases. Thus, it is likely that the backlog will persist for quite some time. Your Morristown personal injury lawyer can advise you as to how this will impact your particular case, but you can anticipate that it will take much longer to get a trial date.
To learn more about how the judicial schedules will affect your personal injury claim, contact Morristown personal injury lawyer Gregg Wisostsky at (973) 898-0161 today.
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