👨‍⚖️ New Jersey resumes civil cases amid judge shortage

👨‍⚖️ Dozens of judge vacancies remain

👨‍⚖️ Over 81,000 trial cases are backlogged


PATERSON — Divorce cases and civil trials are resuming in Passaic County, marking the first time in more than a year that such cases are being handled in all of New Jersey's counties.

The moratorium on cases in Passaic County first implemented last July was finally lifted last week. It comes after four judges were recently appointed to the Superior Court in Passaic County, according to New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner.

“We respectfully urge that the remaining vacancies in the vicinage be filled and offer to assist the legislative and executive branches with that important concern," said Rabner.

Suspensions were lifted in early March for Vicinage 13, which includes Somerset, Hunterdon, and Warren counties. Those suspensions dated back to Feb. 21, 2023.

(NJSBA/Canva)
(NJSBA/Canva)
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However, there's a new snag in Mercer County. Some cases in family court will be transferred to other vicinages including Atlantic/Cape May, Burlington, and Middlesex starting April 15, Rabner said.

Judicial vacancies remain in New Jersey

There are 39 open judicial seats in New Jersey, Acting Administrative Courts Director Glenn Grant said Monday before the Assembly Budget Committee.

While down from 58 judicial vacancies at the start of this year and the May 2022 peak of 78 vacancies. The historic shortage sparked a rebuke from the New Jersey State Bar Association, which at the time criticized lawmakers and Gov. Phil Murphy for a backlog of nominees.

Timothy McGoughran, president of the NJSBA, more recently credited Murphy and lawmakers for working to fix the problem. He said around two dozen new judges were appointed in the first three months of 2024.

"Everybody realized that there were real people getting hurt," McGoughran said.

Over 81,000 trial cases are backlogged

While trials have resumed throughout the state, a significant backlog remains. Grant said Monday that 81,415 trial matters remain backlogged, double the number of backlogged cases in 2019.

Grant said that it could take three years to reach pre-pandemic backlog levels.

Those cases include civil cases, such as personal injury suits, and matrimonial cases.

"In divorce cases and children in court cases, those delays are intolerable," said McGoughran.

Ongoing delays have left families in limbo. McGoughran said children are being left in environments where there are toxic relationships between parents or children are unable to see one of their parents.

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