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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Mandatory Pilot Program Seeks to Shorten Civil Trials

The New Jersey Supreme Court’s Advisory Committee on Expedited Civil Actions has released its recommendations for speeding the resolution of civil actions in state courts without sacrificing due process. The report recommends the court approve a mandatory pilot program for all Track 1 and Track 2 cases (which include property and contract disputes and insurance suits) that focuses on streamlining pre-trial procedures and limiting some in-court proceedings.

The court’s notice to the bar summarizes the features of the proposed pilot program as follows:

(1) an opt out provision;

(2) limitations on interrogatories, document requests, depositions, and adjournments;

(3) case management conferences within 45 days after the first responsive pleading to determine the discovery schedule and set the trial date;

(4) no Rule 4:21A arbitration unless requested by all parties;

(5) pretrial information exchange;

(6) exclusion of witnesses whose testimony would only be cumulative;

(7) limitations on the number of peremptory challenges;

(8) time limits on opening statements and summations; and

(9) encouraging expert testimony by mutual agreement to be by video recording or reports rather than live testimony.

The Advisory Committee recommends participation in the pilot program be mandatory for Track 1 and Track 2 cases because participation in past, optional, pilot programs was too minimal to adequately assess the programs’ outcomes. The report suggests that litigants in more complex Track 3 and Track 4 cases could opt-in to the pilot program, and that Track 1 and Track 2 litigants should be able to opt-out of the program if desired.  At NJCJI’s 2014 Spring Luncheon, Chief Justice Rabner encouraged the audience to be brave and opt-in when pilot programs are offered so the court can find out if the experimental changes actually work as anticipated, so it is interesting the Advisory Committee is also pushing the utilization of pilot programs with its recommendations.

Comments on the report are being accepted until June 6, 2014. They should be emailed to Comments.Mailbox@judiciary.state.nj.us or mailed to:

Glenn A. Grant, J.A.D.

Acting Administrative Director of the Courts

Attn: Comments on Expedited Civil Actions

Hughes Justice Complex; P.O. Box 037

Trenton, NJ 08625-0037

 

Commenters must include their name and address, and should be aware that their comments are subject to public disclosure. NJCJI is developing comments on the report.

 

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