NJ Gives Attys More Time For Some Work Amid Pandemic

By Bill Wichert
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Law360 (May 29, 2020, 4:07 PM EDT) -- The New Jersey Supreme Court is further extending certain provisions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but related measures have ceased as the state judiciary ramps up its capacity to handle matters remotely amid the crisis, according to an order made available on Friday.

Given that state courts have conducted more than 30,000 court events via video or telephone, the Supreme Court on Thursday identified various virus-related provisions that have concluded, including most extensions of discovery deadlines in civil matters and tolling of certain filing deadlines, the order states. Those measures ended as of May 10.

However, the order "permits extensions based on the individual facts of a case and allows requests for such relief by letter rather than motion," judiciary officials said in a notice to the bar accompanying the order.

"The New Jersey courts are continuing to expand the use of remote court operations through video and other means, thereby sustaining access to justice throughout this unprecedented extended emergency," according to the notice.

"As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the court will revisit the provisions of the third omnibus order and make adjustments as appropriate," the notice states.

The state Supreme Court extended certain other provisions through June 14, such as discovery deadlines involving physical or mental examinations of individuals in civil cases, as well as the deadlines for filing affidavits of merit in professional malpractice cases.

In such state cases, a plaintiff must provide an affidavit from an appropriately licensed person stating that the alleged conduct deviated from professional standards.

For health care professionals involved in responding to the outbreak, their depositions and appearances will remain suspended through June 14, except for matters related to COVID-19 or when they request the deposition or appearance, according to the order.

The order extends the suspension of new civil or criminal jury trials through June 14.

In-person grand jury selections and sessions also will not be scheduled through at least June 14, but virtual grand jury proceedings may occur under a pilot program the judiciary launched in Bergen and Mercer counties, according to the order.

Other virus-related measures "remain in full force and effect," including the provision from an earlier Supreme Court order that state court proceedings in general — such as hearings, conferences and arguments — "will be conducted by video or phone conferencing, and in-person appearances will be permitted only in emergency situations," according to the orders.

"A public health emergency has been continued in New Jersey at least through June 5, 2020, and current health guidance suggests that in-person court operations will not resume in full for some time," Thursday's order stated.

--Editing by Nicole Bleier.

For a reprint of this article, please contact reprints@law360.com.

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