Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Judicial Shortage Hinders Bergen

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Judicial Shortage Hinders Bergen

Article excerpt

The assignment judge for Bergen County's Superior Court system put lawyers on notice Monday that as of Sept. 15 he will assign no new civil or family court trials expected to last longer than two weeks.

Judge Peter E. Doyne said in a "notice to the bar" that he was taking the action in response to a shortage of judges resulting from vacancies that have gone unfilled.

Contacted through his secretary, Doyne declined to discuss the judicial shortage or his letter to the bar until it is published by the Office of Administrative Law.

The move comes as Superior Court Judge Patrick Roma, one of the vicinage's veteran criminal judges, retired from the bench last week, leaving just three full-time criminal judges sitting in Bergen County.

Doyne said in his notice that he was taking the action "reluctantly, but with the understanding that it is my obligation" to try to serve the needs of as many parties as possible "within a reasonable time period."

The assignment judge said that priority would go to criminal matters and that he anticipated he might have to assign civil judges and family court judges to criminal cases "to have the matters of individuals who are incarcerated heard in a timely fashion."

Right now, Doyne said, there are six vacancies on the bench, and there will be nine by Sept. 1. By Sept. 15, he added, there will be only three full-time judges in the Criminal Division of Superior Court in Bergen County. The county is allotted a total of 36 judicial slots, so nine vacancies would mean the judiciary is short by 25 percent.

"Despite all our efforts, with that shortage, we will be unable to serve you and your clients as we wish," Doyne told the lawyers in his notice.

He said he had made his decision after consulting with state Chief Justice Stuart Rabner.

Last May, Doyne testified before a state Assembly committee that unfilled judicial positions were causing backlogs in the system. An auto accident lawsuit could take 15 months to two years from filing to final resolution, he said at the time, adding that with increasing vacancies the same case could take from 20 to 28 months. …

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