Remote Trial Without the Consent Of Either Party During the COVID-19 Pandemic
State v. D.E.:
Submitted by New Jersey Domestic Violence Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.
The State appealed an order denying reconsideration of a verbal decision to schedule a trial date for defendant’s remotely conducted domestic violence contempt trial in the Family Part, and the defendant joined in the State’s application as well. Defendant was charged with two disorderly persons charges of contempt of a domestic violence restraining order, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-9(b)(2), a petty disorderly persons charge of harassment, N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4(a), and a violation of probation. Because she was previously convicted of domestic violence contempt, if convicted of either contempt charge defendant would face a mandatory thirty-day jail sentence, N.J.S.A. 2C:25-30.
On June 18, 2020, the trial court verbally scheduled a remotely conducted trial over the objection of both the State and defense counsel. The judge issued the order pursuant to the State Supreme Court’s April 20, 2020 order regarding the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. The trial court interpreted these provisions of the order to allow Family FO contempt hearings to proceed to trial remotely without the consent of the parties, and reasoned that Family FO trials were not designated as those that could only occur remotely with consent of the parties. The court denied a motion for reconsideration and the parties appealed.
On appeal, the appellate court reversed the lower court’s order pursuant to Rule 2:11-2. The appellate court was not tasked with considering the State’s arguments that the trial court’s interpretation of the April 20 order impairs the rights of the victim or endangers the defendant’s constitutional rights. However, the appellate court was tasked with interpreting the State Supreme Court’s April 20, 2020 Coronavirus order, which they read to require consent from all parties for a remote trial of a Family quasi-criminal disorderly persons charge. Since neither party consented, the trial could not proceed remotely, and the court reversed the trial court’s order that had this case scheduled for a remote trial.
At Hark & Hark, we represent clients for appeals in Superior Court for issues like the present case pertaining to whether the court could legally proceed with a remote trial without the consent of either party during the COVID-19 pandemic. We work hard to ensure that our clients receive exceptional representation so that they receive the most favorable outcome as a result.
We offer payment plan options to clients financially incapable of providing full payment upfront. If you are facing a similar situation to that of the defendant in this case, please call us to discuss the matter. At Hark & Hark, we represent clients for any case in any county in New Jersey including Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Mercer, Ocean, and Salem counties.