On Friday, March 27, 2020, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued a comprehensive order modifying court operations in response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.  The measures outlined in the order were aimed at minimizing in-person contact and adhering to social distancing measures in light of recommendations from the New Jersey Department of Health ("NJ DOH") and Centers for Disease Control ("CDC") .  

Before Friday's order, the New Jersey Courts had already suspended certain court proceedings, extended deadlines, and tolled statutes of limitations because of the disruption to business during the public health crisis.  However, in light of the worsening health crisis and the governor's most recent executive order, the judiciary determined that the effective periods for many of its previous orders needed to be extended or modified to reflect current restrictions on movement and activity.

Below is a summary of some of the key points in the Order:

Civil Cases

  • No new civil or criminal trials will be conducted until further notice.
  • Rules 4:24-1(a), 4:24-1(c), 4:46-1, and 4:36-3 are relaxed and supplemented to permit the extension of discovery deadlines through April 26, 2020.
  • The deadlines for filing affidavits of merit in medical and professional malpractice cases will be extended from March 16 through April 26, 2020.
  • The time periods for dismissal of civil cases for lack of prosecution will be tolled for the period from March 16 through April 26, 2020.
  • Rule 4:4-1 is relaxed and supplemented to extend the time period for issuance of a summons to within 60 days of the Track Assignment Notice for notices issued between March 16 and April 26, 2020.
  • The time to serve Notices of Tort Claim will be tolled from March 16 through April 26, 2020.
  • The time periods for discovery, including but not limited to interrogatories (Rule 4:17), discovery and inspection of documents and property (Rule 4:18), physical and mental examination of persons (Rule 4:19), and requests for admissions (Rule 4:22), will be extended from March 16 through April 26, 2020.
  • The Office of Foreclosure will not review or recommend motions or judgments received on or after March 1, 2020.
  • Hearings on involuntary civil commitments are adjourned for limited periods of time.
  • The period of March 16 through April 26, 2020 shall be excluded for the purposes of computing discovery end dates.
  • Landlord/tenant calendars are suspended through April 26, 2020, and lockouts of residential tenants (evictions) are suspended in accordance with Executive Order 106 (March 19, 2020).
  • Special Civil Part (DC) and Small Claims (SC) trial calendars are suspended through April 26, 2020.
  • Attorneys must only submit to the judge a "courtesy copy" of all motion papers if the total submission exceeds 35 pages.
  • Civil Arbitration sessions are extended as follows:
    • Civil Arbitration sessions scheduled from March 16 to April 10, 2020 have been postponed, and Civil Arbitration sessions scheduled from April 11 to April 26, 2020 will be rescheduled;
    • Effective April 27, 2020, Civil Arbitration sessions will resume, with participation in any session to be via video and/or telephone conference and initiated by an arbitrator or panelist;
    • The provisions of Rules 4:21A-1(d) and 4:21A-4(d) are relaxed and supplemented so as to permit the extension of arbitration timelines and to authorize arbitration proceedings to be conducted in a location other than the courthouse.

Criminal Cases

  • No new civil or criminal trials will be conducted until further notice.
  • Grand jury service suspended through April 26, 2020.
  • The time period between March 30 through April 26, 2020, shall be tolled/excluded with regard to:
    • The commencement of a prosecution for an indictable offense under N.J.S.A. 2C:1-6(b);
    • The return of an indictment for an eligible defendant detained in the county jail;
    • The commencement of trial for an eligible defendant detained in the county jail.

The order also includes changes to Family Court proceedings, Tax proceedings, and Municipal Court sessions.