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Civil, Divorce Trials in 6 NJ Counties on Pause Due to Judge Shortage

judge holding gavel in courtroom

Civil and divorce trials in six New Jersey counties have been temporarily halted due to a shortage of judges, officials from the state’s highest court announced earlier this month.

In a statement released by the New Jersey Courts, New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner said trials in the Courts’ Civil Division and matrimonial trials in two vicinages will be suspended, except for very limited circumstances, beginning February 21, 2023.

According to Chief Justice Rabner, the long-standing shortage of trial judges, expanded workloads for sitting judges, and closures during the COVID pandemic have contributed to case delays and a growing backlog. The state’s court system has been operating with an average of over 50 judicial vacancies over the past three years.

Currently, there are 69 judicial vacancies throughout New Jersey’s trial courts – more than one out of every six judicial seats statewide. The problem is particularly pronounced in the two vicinages affected by the temporary halt on civil and divorce trials:

  • Vicinage 13, which includes Hunterdon, Somerset, and Warren Counties.
  • Vicinage 15, which includes Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem Counties.

Amid these challenges, Chief Justice Rabner stated that “there are simply not enough judges at this time to conduct civil and matrimonial trials in either vicinage,” and that the judiciary will prioritize cases in which an individual’s freedom is at stake, such as in criminal or juvenile delinquency cases, cases involving domestic violence, and other time-sensitive matters. He also warned that without solutions to the shortage problem, other vicinages may face similar predicaments in the future.

Levinson Axelrod: Prioritizing Our Clients’ Cases

As a firm that represents clients in courts across New Jersey, our team at Levinson Axelrod, P.A. has seen first-hand how the shortage of judges has placed and continues to place strain on our court system.

But just as we weathered the most difficult parts of the pandemic, we remain committed to fighting for victims through these administrative setbacks. This means providing our clients with up-to-date information about how these types of trial suspensions may impact their cases (if at all) and helping clients in affected counties explore their options to maximize efficiency in their proceedings and pursue fair settlements through out-of-court negotiations or mediation, when possible.

We’d like our current and future clients to know that despite the current issues in our courts, we will continue investigate, conduct discovery, and do all that is necessary to build the strongest possible cases for our clients. And while many of the serious injury and workers’ compensation cases we handle can be settled effectively out of court, we’ll continue to set cases for trial and litigate before judges and juries when necessary.