New Jersey Resumes Socially Distanced In-Person Grand Jury Sessions

On May 11, 2021, the New Jersey Supreme Court announced its authorization of resumption of some in-person grand jury sessions effective June 15, 2021, provided appropriate health protocols such as social distancing and wearing of face masks are complied with. All counties must have at least one in-person grand jury panel in place by August 1, 2021. Criminal jury trials will be given priority, and overall capacity for in-person court events—including criminal jury trials—remains limited based on COVID-19 health protocols.

Under the May 11, 2021 Order, most civil jury trials will continue to be held in a virtual format.  Especially urgent civil cases, including those that involve “a plaintiff whom doctors have determined has a limited life expectancy, will be prioritized for in-person trials.” Local resources can impact a judge’s authorization to conduct additional in-person civil jury trials as long as doing so would not impact the Judiciary’s capacity to conduct other urgent court events like in-person criminal trials. Track I and II trials, which include auto negligence, personal injury, and other tort claims, will proceed virtually “absent compelling circumstances” as determined by the Assignment Judge. The Judiciary stated it will provide technological assistance to grand and petit jurors who require it.

The Court previously attempted to authorize options for in-person grand jury sessions as coordinated by the County Prosecutor in October 2020, but the Court suspended in-person grand juries in an Order dated November 16, 2020 in response to rising COVID-19 cases in the State. This latest Order allows New Jersey to join its Pennsylvania and New York neighbors in resuming in-person civil jury trials. Pennsylvania ended its statewide judicial emergency in June 2020, but permitted local courts to impose their own limits on in-person proceedings and access to court facilities. New York issued a statewide resumption of in-person civil jury trials in March 2021.

Link to the Court’s Order: