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New Jersey Supreme Court Orders Virtual Jury Trials to Proceed

By on January 8, 2021 in Other with 0 Comments

After receiving numerous public comments, on January 7, 2021, the New Jersey Supreme Court has ordered that virtual jury trials are to proceed, starting on February 1, 2021. They will be implemented in a two phase approach in a limited number of vicinages on a voluntary basis starting February 1, 2021 and on a mandatory basis statewide starting on April 5, 2021.

The rationale appears to be able to move cases to a resolution. Without facing a trial, often parties are not realistic in trying to resolve their case. No doubt many cases will settle to avoid a virtual jury trial.

The Court noted that “countless civil litigants whose trials have been indefinitely delayed during the pandemic have not been able to resolve important disputes” and that the courts and attorneys have developed expertise in participating in virtual proceedings. Further, with training and support from the Judiciary, New Jersey residents have been able to serve as jurors in hybrid trials and grand jury panels, using their own technology or technology provided by the courts.

Hence, the Supreme Court entered an order that, during the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, all civil jury trials will be conducted in a virtual format. In the first phase, consent to proceed remotely will be required. Phase 1 will include a limited number of vicinages: Atlantic/Cape May; Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem; Monmouth; Passaic; and Union. Phase 2 will start on or after April 5, 2021 and virtual civil jury trials will expand to all counties and no consent will be required. Phase 2 will continue as long as necessary based on the COVID-19 pandemic.

While all civil cases will be eligible for virtual civil jury trials, to the extent possible, each county will begin with cases involving a single plaintiff, a single defendant, a limited number of issues in dispute, and a modest number of live witnesses. Jury selection will be entirely virtual. Empaneled jurors will participate remotely with tablets provided by the court unless they can demonstrate that they are able to use their own technology.

At the pretrial conference with the judge, all aspects of the virtual process will be covered, including whether the judge, attorneys, and parties will be present in the courtroom or whether any or all of them will participate remotely. The judges and attorneys may agree to a hybrid format with the judge, attorneys, and witnesses participating from the courtroom.            

The first virtual civil jury trials will be recorded and may be used for purposes of attorney and juror training for future virtual jury trials.


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About the Author

About the Author:

Ms. Ramos is an Executive Committee Member and Co-Chair of the Litigation Department at Capehart Scatchard, P.A. located in Mount Laurel, New Jersey. She is an experienced litigator with over 30 years experience handling diverse matters. Practice areas include tort defense, business litigation, estate litigation, tort claims and civil rights defense, construction litigation, insurance coverage, employment litigation, shareholder disputes, and general litigation.

For the years 2020-2023, Ms. Ramos was selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America© in the practice area of Litigation - Insurance. The attorneys on this list are selected based upon the consensus opinion of leading lawyers about the professional abilities of their colleagues within the same geographical area and legal practice area. A complete description of The Best Lawyers in America© methodology can be viewed via their website at: https://www.bestlawyers.com/methodology.

In 2021, Capehart Scatchard and Ms. Ramos received the “Best Law Firm” ranking in the area of Litigation – Insurance (Metro, Tier 3) published by U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers®. Law firms included on the list are recognized for professional excellence with consistently impressive ratings from clients and peers. To be eligible for a ranking, a firm must have at least one attorney who has been included in the current edition of Best Lawyers in America, which recognizes the top five percent of practicing lawyers in the United States. Betsy Ramos (Litigation – Insurance) was recognized for this prestigious award in the 2021 edition. For a description of the “Best Law Firm” selection methodology please visit: https://bestlawfirms.usnews.com/methodology.aspx.

“Best Law Firms” is published by Best Lawyers in partnership with U.S. News & World Report. For a description of the selection methodology please visit: https://bestlawfirms.usnews.com/methodology.aspx.

*No aspect of this advertisement has been submitted to or approved by the Supreme Court of New Jersey.


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