During the past several weeks, our office has fielded hundreds of phone calls and emails from anxious clients (and concerned attorneys), who have all been wondering when we will resume having landlord tenant trials in New Jersey. Unfortunately, as of now, there is still no plan as to when (and how) the Courts plan on scheduling landlord tenant trials, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. At this point, the decision is in the hands of the State Judiciary, which obviously has some very serious and legitimate concerns about ensuring the safety of their staff and the guests of the courthouses throughout New Jersey. Consequently, on June 12, the Judiciary posted their Fourth Omnibus Order Fourth Omnibus Order, which establishes a schedule for resuming some Court operations, but with regard to Landlord Tenant matters, the Order sets forth that “trials continue to be suspended until further notice.”
Clearing the Backlog
Since the New Jersey Courts halted eviction hearings on March 16, they have accumulated more than 30,000 landlord tenant cases that are still waiting to be heard. Clearing this backlog will be essential to the Court’s plan moving forward. A few weeks ago, I participated in a conference call with the Judge and the staff of one vicinage, and the Court staff proposed that tenants would be given a survey to determine whether they would be available to appear in Court via an Internet conference. By using this method, it has been the hope of the judiciary that a large percentage of their matters could avoid in person appearances. Other courts have also proposed their own ideas, which have included staggering the role call times so that only a litigants would appear at a time. In either case, it is clear that the prior method of conducting landlord tenant court, which has always involved several hundred people crowding into a room and waiting for their names to be called, will no longer work.