Divorce Trials Suspended in Several NJ Counties
If you are getting or filing for divorce in six New Jersey counties, you won't be getting a trial any time soon.
Chief Justice Stuart Rabner of the New Jersey Supreme Court has suspended matrimonial and civil trials in Cumberland, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Salem, Somerset, and Warren Counties due to a lack of judges.
Rabner says there are 69 judicial vacancies in Vicinages 13 and 15.
"That imposes heightened responsibilities on sitting judges who handle thousands of proceedings and motions each month," Rabner said in a statement, "That situation, along with the effects of the COVID crisis, has contributed to delays in handling individual cases and substantial increases in backlog."
The backlog of cases has continued to build for the last few years as judges leave the bench for retirement, and few new judges have been appointed to replace them.
Priority is given to "proceedings in which an individual's liberty is at stake," as well as cases that "present potential emergencies, like complaints of domestic violence," according to Rabner.
Parties in civil cases and divorce proceedings are often waiting months for even a simple hearing before a judge and that wait may only get longer now that trials have been suspended.
Rabner gave no timetable for the resumption of trials, but says he recognizes that "when the doors of the courthouse are closed – even partially – people entitled to their day in court suffer real harm."
At the same time, he issued a warning that he may be forced to take the same action in other New Jersey counties.
Again, Rabner implored Gov. Phil Murphy to make more judicial nominations and for the state Senate to move swiftly to confirm those nominees.
That is something neither party has done with any urgency.
Murphy's office told NJ.com that Murphy has made 17 nominations, but the Senate has yet to hold confirmation votes.
However, even if all of those nominees were confirmed, it would not solve the problem. 23 judges are expected to retire at the end of the year, making the shortage even worse.