The New Jersey Supreme Court lifted COVID-19 restrictions in court and is taking steps to allow for more in-person proceedings.
Effective immediately, special civil trials and most family matters will be in person, while initial hearings for involuntary civil commitments will return to the courtroom starting March 1, 2023, according to an Oct. 27 order signed by Chief Justice Stuart Rabner.
Criminal jury trials will continue to proceed in person, while routine conferences and motions can stay remote, he said.
The newly issued order replaces a Nov. 18, 2021, notice that stated all court proceedings will remain virtual for the time being.
In response to updated guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the court announced that, starting Sept. 1, 2022, social distancing and masks were no longer required for jury proceedings in courtrooms.
“Today, with expanded vaccination and treatment options, public health authorities agree that the virus poses less of a threat,” Rabner wrote in last week’s order. “In light of those changed circumstances, the court has concluded all COVID-19 restrictions in court locations while maintaining the option for people to wear masks at their choice. In addition, judges also routinely exercise discretion to permit individuals to participate virtually as necessary for health or other reasons.”
“By permitting more on-site presence and continuing to leverage virtual technologies, the court today can effectively balance in-person and virtual proceedings in a way that maximizes access and fairness and supports meaningful participation and timely justice,” Rabner said.
He noted that “as with all operational protocols” the revised rules “reflect the evolving nature of court operations and remain subject to ongoing review and potential future refinement.”