TRENTON, N.J. – Juries are a hallmark of life in America. In New Jersey – at least for now – this sacred American institution is the latest victim of the novel Coronavirus.
“Effective immediately, the Judiciary is suspending jury service for new trials,” Chief Justice Stuart Rabner announced on Thursday. “While jury trials are a critical component of our justice system, this extraordinary step is necessary to protect the health and safety of the community. At the same time, we will make every effort to keep our court system running in the face of this health crisis.”
The High Court’s decision applies to both civil and criminal trials but not grand juries.
Trials already in progress will continue for the time being as will non-jury calendar calls including family court hearings.
A pause on all upcoming jury trials isn’t the only immediate extraordinary step catalyzed by the global pandemic. Landlord/tenant, small claims, and “other non-jury court proceedings” will soon be staggered to avoid gathering large crowds in often-cramped court house environments. The state court system also plans to conduct some hearings – including some motions – remotely through the use of conferencing technology.