Court Updates (NJ & Bankruptcy) - Hladik, Onorato & Federman

COVID-19 Impact Updates for State Courts & Federal Courts
Here are the measures taken by the executive, legislative and judicial branches in New Jersey in response to the COVID-19 pandemic as of June 1, 2020. Each week this situation continues, we have seen and will see constantly pivoting policy and legal changes that impact our clients and other default law firms.

New Jersey added approximately an additional 3,500 new case of COVID-19 over the past week.

However, according to ATTOM Data, the pandemic and statewide emergency has reduced the previous foreclosure rate in New Jersey—which was ranked highest in the nation—to a rate dropping it out of the top five (5) states with the highest foreclosure rates in April 2020.1

Be sure to check our firm's prior updates for information on earlier events and/or standing orders.

The five (5) states with the highest April 2020 foreclosure rates were Delaware (1 in every 2,745), Maryland (1 in every 3,809), Illinois (1 in every 5,353), Connecticut (1 in every 5,519), and Florida (1 in every 6,171).

State Courts:

Most New Jersey county courts (vicinages) remain closed to the public except for enumerated emergent matters. The most up to date information on court closures can be found here.

All county sheriff's offices are closed entirely or operating on a reduced staff and schedule. Many of those offices have indefinitely postponed sales that were scheduled in May. Very few are accepting new writs of execution or are otherwise schedule future sales.

On May 15, 2020, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued a Notice and Order clarifying its April 24th Second Omnibus Order. Specifically, as it relates to foreclosures, the Court states in its Notice that “The Office of Foreclosure will continue to review and recommend non-dispositive motions (e.g. motions to substitute plaintiff, motion to enter default, motion for surplus funds and motions to correct defendant), but will not recommend judgments or dispositive motions received on or after March 1 2020 pending further court order.” As such, Motions for Final Judgment can be filed, but final judgements will still not presently be entered in New Jersey.

On May 28, 2020, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued its Third Omnibus Order on Court Operations and Legal Practice. This Order reinforces the stay imposed on the Office of Foreclosure relating to recommendation and entry of judgments or dispositive motions filed on or after March 1, 2020. It also terminates the extensions of the Second Order related to civil discovery and lack of prosecution dismissals. Lockouts, landlord/tenant eviction trials and all new jury trials will be schedule after June 14, 2020.

Federal Courts:

The Court—including the Bankruptcy Court—was set to open public operations on June 1, 2020. However, due to protests over the death of George Floyd (which remained largely peaceful), the phased opening has been delayed one (1) week. There is growing concern of the number of civil and criminal cases backlogged in the New Jersey federal court system. The number is reported to have grown to almost 39,000 cases—a 230% increase since 2016. Ongoing judicial vacancies, increased filings and the present reduced operational capacity due to COVID-19 are all contributing factors to increased delays.

May 22, 2020, Chief District Judge Wolfson entered two standing orders. The first Order requires face coverings and social distancing for entry and occupancy of the courthouses of the district by the public. The second Order postpones all criminal and civil jury trials until after August 31, 2020. All discovery deadlines extended by prior Orders will remain in effect; however, there will be no further extensions. All other rules and operations will continue regularly unless previously addressed by a prior standing Order.