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Courts and Law Enforcement Respond to Coronavirus

In light of the national emergency due to the outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19), courts and law enforcement agencies at every level of Government have taken extraordinary actions:

FEDERAL
● For more information, see our prior posts.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

● State law enforcement continues to aggressively investigate and file criminal charges for COVID-related conduct, including price gouging, and violations of “lockdown” executive orders. Among other things:

○ The Attorney General's Office has issued 92 subpoenas to retailers and online marketplaces to investigate complaints of unfairly raising prices. The AG’s Office has also issued some 732 case and desist letters to individuals and businesses to warn against price gouging of other forms of consumer fraud.

○ Numerous individuals have been charged with violations ranging from petty disorderly persons offenses to second-degree indictable crimes (with potential penalties of up to 10 years in state prison) for offenses arising from violations of “lockdown” orders. In one case, a 73-year-old man entered a grocery store without a face mask. When he was confronted by store employees, a conflict ensued until the man allegedly intentionally coughed on employees and told them he had COVID-19. He was charged with second- degree “making terroristic threats during an emergency” and other serious criminal charges.

○ Anyone who has been charged with a criminal offense or has been contacted by law enforcement regarding potential unlawful conduct should be represented by experienced defense counsel to protect their rights.

● The Administrative Office of the Courts (“AOC”) has issued Directive 12-20, which implements the Supreme Court’s order that the courts resume operations remotely.

○ Broadcast livestreaming will be limited to Criminal matters. The AOC has published a detailed list of events and which technology will be used to conduct each event. Most events will be conducted via Zoom, followed in frequency by Scopia (when the defendant is incarcerated) and Microsoft Teams. Certain criminal matters will not be broadcast, including Drug Court, bail motions, expungements, ISP hearings, and municipal appeals. Certain criminal events remain closed to the public entirely, including Krol, Megan’s Law, and Sexually Violent Predator hearings.

○ Civil, Family, General Equity, Probate, Special Civil, and Municipal matters will be conducted via Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or telephone. The AOC has published a detailed list of events and how each will be conducted. Events in these courts will not be broadcast/livestreamed absent a showing of good cause found by the individual judge, although dood cause may be found where more than five observers have been granted access to view the event.

○ Public proceedings which are not broadcast may still be accessible live to individual observers upon request. Requests must be made in advance by email or telephone to the hearing judge. Observers must abide by court rules which prohibit the recording and transmission of court proceedings.

○ The courts have issued a new form to request recordings of proceedings which were conducted remotely.  Transcripts of past events can be ordered using existing procedures.

○ In matters in which broadcast livestreaming is authorized, individual judges have the discretion to limit access based on factors including the preferences of the parties, attorneys, witnesses/victims, and others; the risk of disclosure of confidential information; public safety, and other concerns. In such cases, the judge must still consider special requests for access to livestreaming as per the above procedures.

● For more information, see our prior posts.
MUNICIPAL COURTS

● Municipal court matters will be conducted remotely via Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or other
means as determined by the individual court. Events will not be broadcast live but will be
available for live viewing upon request to the court in advance via email or telephone.

● See our prior posts.

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