Not surprisingly, due to the COVID-19 surge of cases, the New Jersey Supreme Court has once again suspended jury trials. They had resumed earlier in the fall on a limited basis as a hybrid with virtual jury selection and socially distanced trials. However, with this second wave of new COVID-19 cases, the Court deemed it unsafe to conduct any new in person jury trials. Hence, by order of November 16, 2020, any new in person jury trials are suspended pending further order.
After the court sent out the notice suspending jury trials in New Jersey, on 11/25/20, the court sent out a notice to the bar, which would mandate all cases to be eligible for an entirely virtual jury trial. Having the pleasure of participating in zoom depositions for the past 6 months, conducting trials virtually would present a myriad of problems. The presentation of evidence, securing witness testimony at trial, internet connectivity problems, and the use of evidence for impeachment purposes would be just some of the challenges in a virtual jury trial.
We can only hope that enough members of the bar object so that the court changes this proposal from mandatory to voluntary participation. The goal of the court is to move cases off its docket. While that it is understandable, it should not be done at the expense of adequate representation at trial. I have suggested the increased use of settlement conferences and mediations as an alternative path to resolve cases and move cases off the court’s docket.
We will keep you posted as to whether this proposal is implemented and/or modified before implementation by the court.
Betsy G. Ramos, Esq. is a member of the firm’s Executive Committee and Co-Chair of the Litigation Group. She is an experienced litigator with over 25 years’ experience handling diverse matters. Her practice areas include tort defense, insurance coverage, Tort Claims Act and civil rights defense, business litigation, employment litigation, construction litigation, estate litigation and general litigation.