Lee S. Goldsmith, M.D., JD
As I write this blog, it is the beginning of 2023, and we are in the midst of a persistent judicial shortage in the State of New Jersey. For individuals and businesses waiting to have their matters heard, this has meant long delays in the resolution of cases.
Prior to the onset of the pandemic, the administrative office of the Courts, controlled by our Supreme Court, was able to take steps to ensure that cases progressed through the Court system. As it pertained to medical malpractice litigation, this often meant that from beginning to end, a case would take approximately 2-3 years.
One of the many unfortunate side effects of the COVID-19 pandemic was a complete shutdown of our court system. The effect of this was a delay on cases being resolved by trial and, as the delay persisted, a huge backlog developed. This backlog remains even though the Courts are now open. What has made matters even more difficult is the recent wave of judicial retirements, without the corresponding appointment of new judges. This has resulted in a severe judicial shortage. With a limited number of judges available, priorities must be given to certain types of cases, whose needs take precedence over civil matters.
First, for criminal cases, those accused of crimes have a constitutional right to a speedy trial. Individuals who could not arrange for bail have been kept in jail for extended periods of time and those out on bail and who considered themselves innocent had the weight of the allegations hanging over them for prolonged periods of time.
Second, the Family Court had issues, and family matters, including those involving children, are in need of being resolved promptly. Continued delays can have a devastating effect on families. This group constitutes the second most important group affected by Court delays.
Thus, much of the available judicial resources are being sent to address these two important areas. Civil matters, such as medical malpractice cases, are delayed as a result. While this may affect our ability to take matters to trial in the short term, it does not affect our ability to continue to vigorously prosecute cases on our clients’ behalf.
Should you have any questions please do not hesitate to call. We are, as always, available.