Important Information Regarding the Covid-19 Seventh Omnibus Order on Court Operations & Legal Practice for Lawyers & Law Firms in New Jersey
Since Covid-19 has caused closures throughout the State of New Jersey, one of the main challenges has been related to how court proceedings can still occur to maintain health mandates while simultaneously preventing a backlog of cases that need to be resolved. Recently, the New Jersey Supreme Court, through Judge Glenn A. Grant, released a Seventh Omnibus Order on Court Operations and Legal Practice, on July 24, 2020, that ordered specific extensions and continued adjustments. To learn more about the Order, review the information that is outlined below:
General Summary of the July 24, 2020 Seventh Omnibus Order
The Order continues various adjustments that were required during the Covid-19 outbreak that included the prioritization of remote proceedings and the permission of electronic signatures, remote depositions, and electronic service on the State of New Jersey. Conversely, it concludes blanket suspensions and extensions particularly related to discovery involving experts, affidavits of merit, relaxation of Rule 4:86 related to guardianships of incapacitated persons, and depositions and appearances by medical professionals. There is still the possibility of an extension based on the unique facts and circumstances of each case even though certain suspensions and extensions have been concluded.
The Key Provisions of the July 24, 2020 Seventh Omnibus Order
Jurors will be summoned for new civil and criminal jury trials starting on September 21, 2020, beginning in the first vicinages of Bergen; Atlantic/Cape May; Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem; and expanding statewide from there.
Jury selections will be conducted in a hybrid manner with voir dire questioning primarily in a virtual format and some follow-up questioning and the exercise of peremptory challenges in person.
In-person Grand Jury panels remained suspended until further notice while virtual grand jury sessions will continue in Bergen, Mercer, and State Grand Juries.
Excludable time provisions will be continued through September 20, 2020, for Defendant’s held without bail.
There will be an amendment of Phase 2 of the Judiciary’s post-pandemic plan to allow applicants seeking a domestic violence restraining order to appear at the Domestic Violence units throughout the state without an appointment. Additionally, all vicinages shall have in place an option for applying remotely for such relief.
Violations of domestic violence restraining orders charged as contempt will proceed remotely only if both parties provide consent. Trials will continue in person if consent is withheld.
The general extension of deadlines for discovery involving experts will end on July 26, 2020, and extensions may be provided for individual cases. In FM (matrimonial actions) actions, the relaxation of Rule 1:6-4 is continued to eliminate the requirement of courtesy copies if the submission does not exceed 35 pages.
Municipal Court sessions shall be continued to be conducted primarily through remote technologies. However, in certain circumstances, in-person sessions may be held based on the facts and circumstances of an individual case, including complex matters such as DWI/DUI trials and cases involving consequence magnitudes such as criminal offenses.
The extension of discovery deadlines involving physical or mental examinations of persons (Rule 4:19) will end on July 26, 2020, and extensions can be provided on a case-by-case basis. In terms of medical and professional malpractice cases, the general extension of deadlines for filing affidavits of merit will end on July 26, 2020, and extensions will be considered when necessary. The relaxation of Rule 4:86 regarding guardianships of incapacitated persons will end on July 26, 2020, and extensions can occur should they be required.
Lockouts of residential tenants (evictions) are still suspended under Executive Order 106. Landlord/tenant complaints can still be filed with the courts, and new complaints must have an email address for the landlord and an email address for the tenant when possible. Landlords will then be required to certify as complying with the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES Act), 15 U.S.C. 9001. Courts must then schedule intake, and pretrial/settlement conferences and trials are still suspended until further notice. The exception to this rule is if there are emergent circumstances for an Order to Show Cause for Eviction, which cannot be based on nonpayment of rent except in the case of the death of a tenant. The Court will determine whether an emergency exists and then schedule a trial when required. Under Executive Order 106, an eviction may proceed when it is “in the interest of justice.”
Special Civil Part
Special Civil Part (D.C.) and Small Claims (S.C.) will be conducted remotely with or without consent. The relaxation of Rule 1:6-4 will be continued to eliminate the requirement of courtesy copies if the total submission does not exceed 35 pages in civil matters.
General Guidelines for All Courts
Where possible, depositions may continue to be conducted remotely using necessary and available video technology. Court reports will be authorized in such circumstances to administer and accept oaths remotely. Where required, depositions can be conducted in person so long as social distancing and all appropriate precautions are taken. The general suspension of depositions and appearances for any doctors, nurses, or healthcare professionals that are engaged in responding to the Covid-19 public health emergency will end on July 26, 2020. If any further suspensions and extensions are required, they will be considered on an individual basis. The provisions of the April 7, 2020 Order relaxing Rule 4:4-4(a)(7) to permit electronic service of process by email on the State of New Jersey are continued. The provisions surrounding Rule 1:32-2A(c) and all other Court regulations requiring original signatures on filings are relaxed as documented in prior Orders.
Disciplinary Matters & Fee Arbitration
Disciplinary hearings and fee arbitrations will continue in a virtual video or phone format to the extent possible, depending on the complexity of the matter.
Board of Bar Examiners
The rules pertaining to the application for admission to the practice of law, Rules 1:24-1 are relaxed as outlined in the April 6, 2020, and July 15, 2020 Orders regarding cancellation of the July 2020 and September 2020 in-person bar examination dates. There will be a virtual bar examination on October 5-6, 2020. Rule 1:21 will also be relaxed to permit certain law graduates the right to practice subject to certain conditions with supervision before passing the bar exam.
The provisions set out in the April 24, 2020 Second Omnibus Order continue to remain in effect. Requests for extensions of time in individual cases may be submitted by letter rather than a formal motion. Rule 1:1-2(a) enables courts to provide extensions or cancel hearings based on the Covid-19 public health emergency.
How the Bianchi Law Group Can Help
Due to the uncertainty surrounding Covid-19, it is essential to obtain legal advice from an experienced attorney regarding your upcoming court case since many regulations have shifted and are continually changing. The Bianchi Law Group focuses on practice areas related to Domestic Violence, Criminal Defense, and Municipal Court matters. Contact us at 862-210-8570 to discuss potential legal implications of the evolving procedural and legal landscape in New Jersey.
The Bianchi Law Group, LLC has prepared the content for general informational purposes. The content should not be considered advice, recommendations, or an offer to perform services. You should not act upon any information without seeking professional legal counsel from an attorney licensed to practice law in your jurisdiction. No representations are being made as to the completeness or accuracy of the information. Nothing herein is intended to create an attorney-client relationship and shall not be construed as legal advice.