Due to a shortage of judges and judicial resources, civil and family trails expected to last longer than two weeks will not be tried in Bergen County for the foreseeable future. The decision was made public in a letter sent to the state bar association on Monday by Bergen County Assignment Judge Peter E. Doyne. The county is allotted 36 judicial slots, but currently has 6 vacancies. That problem is only expected to grow, when three more judges set to retire from the bench in September.
When testifying before a State Assembly committee in May, Judge Doyne presented a preview of the effect of additional judicial vacancies in the vicinage. With six judicial vacancies, an auto accident lawsuit could take up to 15 months from filing to final resolution, Doyne said, according to The Record. But with nine unfilled seats, it could take up to 28 months, he warned the committee.
In his letter, Judge Doyne explained that his decision to suspend lengthy trials was done “reluctantly,” in recognition of an “obligation to attempt to ensure this vicinage addresses the matters of as many litigants as we can within a reasonable time period.”
Family court trials are expected to receive the heaviest blow, since family cases that make it to trial are often extremely contentious, involving significant sums of money and child custody issues. No division, however, will go unscathed. With only three full-time judges assigned to the criminal division, judges from the family and civil parts are expected to hear some criminal cases.
Due to political roadblocks between the State Senate and the Governor’s Office, there are judicial vacancies across the state – 60 in total. Essex County currently has the most vacancies, with 21. Given the current situation, there has been talk of reviving a deal to bring 8 judges to Essex.
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