Judicial vacancies trigger suspension of trials in some parts of New Jersey


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It’s impossible to predict how many trials these suspensions will affect, said Pete McAleer, a spokesperson for the Administrative Office of the Courts. While many trials will face indefinite delays, the courts will still address applications for child support, custody and visitation, McAleer said.

There are currently 69 vacancies throughout the trial courts, Rabner said, more than one out of every six positions statewide. The court system has operated with an average of more than 50 vacancies for the past three years.

“That imposes heightened responsibilities on sitting judges who handle thousands of proceedings and motions each month,” Rabner said. “That situation, along with the effects of the COVID crisis, has contributed to delays in handling individual cases and substantial increases in backlog.”

There are five vacancies out of a total of 20 judicial positions in Vicinage 13 and nine vacancies out of 28 positions in Vicinage 15.

The judiciary prioritizes cases that concern an individual’s liberty, like criminal or juvenile delinquency matters, and cases that present potential emergencies such as domestic violence complaints.

“There are simply not enough judges at this time to conduct civil and matrimonial trials in either vicinage,” Rabner said. “Without additional relief, we may well face the same situation in other vicinages in the near future.”

Jeralyn Lawrence, president of the New Jersey State Bar Association, said the ongoing situation has reached crisis levels. “The court does not operate properly with more than 25 to 30 vacancies,” she said in an interview with POLITICO. “The executive and legislative branches have known about this for months and they’ve done nothing.”

Natalie Hamilton, a spokesperson for Gov. Phil Murphy, said the administration is working to fill the vacancies. “Governor Murphy has remained committed to ensuring vacancies in New Jersey’s courts are filled by highly qualified individuals,” she said. “Since he took office in 2018, 101 judges have been nominated and confirmed, including 45 in the 2022 calendar year.”

Lawrence said the governor is not moving quickly enough.

“The judiciary can’t solve this problem,” Lawrence said. “There’s only two branches of government that can solve this problem. Our governor and our legislature cannot figure out who to put on the bench.”

“Time is of the essence, and it has been of the essence,” Lawrence said. “They shouldn’t work on anything else other than this.”

There is no shortage of qualified candidates for the vacancies, Lawrence added.

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( With inputs from : www.politico.com )

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