NJ judge shortage forces halt of more divorce, civil trials
👩⚖️ Six NJ counties suspended most civil and matrimonial trials in February
👨⚖️ Another county must suspend trials, though they are resuming in three others
👩⚖️ Head of the NJ State Bar Association called state leaders "irresponsible" and blamed them for the shortage
An ongoing judge shortage in New Jersey has spread, making it harder for more unhappy couples to divorce and bringing a halt to many cases in the civil division.
The state court system has faced a shortage of more than 60 vacancies on average for the past three years, Chief Justice Stuart Rabner said in a statement. Recently that number has dropped to 53 vacancies, but another county in North Jersey is feeling the pressure.
Seven out of 28 judicial positions remain unfilled in Passaic County. Without enough judges, all civil and matrimonial trials are on hold there starting July 31. Those cases will move forward only in "very limited circumstances," Rabner said, without expanding on what circumstances would be included.
The announcement comes less than five months after civil and matrimonial trials for six other counties were suspended in February. Trials remain on hold in Hunterdon, Somerset, and Warren counties. But there is good news for Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem counties.
Vacancies for the courts in Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem have been reduced. Only two spots remain unfilled out of 28 judgeships and trials will resume in those three counties "at once," Rabner said.
"The Judiciary’s goal is to serve the public by providing a place to resolve disputes fairly and expeditiously. In order to do so in every vicinage, we respectfully ask the Executive and Legislative branches to continue to address the critical issue of judicial vacancies in a timely manner," Rabner said.
👪 Trial suspensions hurt families and victims
Families and plaintiffs in civil cases including victims of discrimination, automobile incidents, and medical malpractice in Passaic County will suffer the most from the new moratorium, NJ State Bar Association President Timothy F. McGoughran said in a statement.
McGoughran called it "irresponsible" that the governor hasn't nominated candidates and the state Senate hasn't given them hearings.
"The ongoing efforts to nominate and confirm more Superior Court judges in New Jersey simply have not kept pace with the rate of vacancies. With every step forward, the Judiciary has been forced to take a step back," McGoughran said.