New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Courts Set to Partially Reopen
Workers’ Compensation Courts appear to be set to partially reopen to live appearances on March 7, 2022. On February 14, 2022, the Honorable Russell Wojtenko, Jr., Director and Chief Judge of Compensation for the State of New Jersey, issued a Notice to the Bar declaring that the Division’s courts will be opened to all case participants going forward.
New Jersey Compensation courts’ reopening is welcome news, but the reopening will not be total immediately. A significant number of cases will still be heard via teleconference. Chief Judge Wojtneko’s directive outlines that routine and uncontested matters, such as pre-trial conferences, list markings, uncontested motions, and settlement approvals, can still be accomplished without an in-person appearance by the parties or their attorneys.
However, it appears that contested matters, witness testimony, and trial appearances will now be going forward in an in-person setting. Further, holding remote hearings will require the consent of both parties. But it is likely that as COVID-19 restrictions ease further, parties will be required to appear for more in-person events. It is expected that settlement hearings will eventually have to be conducted with primarily in-person testimony rather than by affidavit, which has been the norm during the pandemic. Limited health screenings of attendees, such as taking a temperature and screening for symptoms, may also be required. Still, further, individual judges’ directives will also impact how quickly separate courtrooms and vicinages open up to in-person events.