Previously I wrote about the looming crisis in the NJ family courts due to an extremely high number of judicial vacancies. Well, earlier this week the NJ Supreme Court released an official notice that family law trials are suspended in 2 vicinages thereby affecting litigants in multiple counties throughout New Jersey
The following in the press release issued by Chief Justice Stuart Rabner:
For immediate release: Feb. 7, 2023
Statement of Chief Justice on Suspension of Civil and Matrimonial Trials
in Two Vicinages Due to Vacancy Crisis
Chief Justice Stuart Rabner issued the following statement today:
“Because of the current high number of judicial vacancies, trials in the Civil
Division and matrimonial trials will not be conducted in two vicinages, beginning
Feb. 21, 2023, except for very limited circumstances. Those trials will be suspended
for the immediate future.
At this time, there are 69 vacancies throughout the trial courts – more than one out of
every six positions statewide. That imposes heightened responsibilities on sitting
judges who handle thousands of proceedings and motions each month. In addition,
for the past three years, the court system has operated with an average of more than
50 vacancies. That situation, along with the effects of the COVID crisis, has
contributed to delays in handling individual cases and substantial increases in
Circumstances today are particularly challenging in two vicinages. In Vicinage 13,
which is comprised of Hunterdon, Somerset, and Warren counties, there are five
vacancies out of a total of 20 judicial positions. In Vicinage 15, comprised of
Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem counties, there are nine vacancies out of 28
The Judiciary prioritizes proceedings in which an individual’s liberty is at stake, like
criminal and juvenile delinquency matters; cases that present potential emergencies,
like complaints of domestic violence; and other time-sensitive matters. In light of the
high percentage of vacancies in Vicinages 13 and 15, and the particular challenges
multi-county vicinages face, there are simply not enough judges at this time to
conduct civil and matrimonial trials in either vicinage.
Without additional relief, we may well face the same situation in other vicinages in
the near future.
We recognize that when the doors of the courthouse are closed – even partially –
people entitled to their day in court suffer real harm. We therefore respectfully call
on the Executive and Legislative branches to address the current vacancy crisis in
Vicinages 13 and 15 as well as other parts of the state. We are prepared to assist in
any way that would be helpful.
We look forward to a resumption of all proceedings in both vicinages as soon as
The immediate and practical impact for individuals living in the affected counties is that if you cannot resolve your divorce, you cannot get a trial. Lives will be in limbo. The consequences can be profound and the ripple effects as new cases entire the system will clog an already overwhelmed court system.