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Jail cell. Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM

The New Jersey Office of the Public Defender and the ACLU have obtained an order to show cause before the New Jersey Supreme Court seeking the release of individuals who have been detained in county jails prior to a trial or case disposition under the Criminal Justice Reform Act for six months or longer whose most serious charges are second-degree offenses or lower. A new detention hearing would be required before Judges or a special master appointed by the court from a different county where they are assigned on an expedited basis. Oral argument before the court is scheduled for the week of Jan. 29, 2021. The attorney general and the county prosecutors surprisingly objected to the relief being sought.

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in crisis in many fundamental aspects of the world order. The criminal justice system has not escaped its consequences. Jury trials and in-person court proceedings have been suspended. Efforts were made to restart a trickle of trials in vastly altered court rooms, however that was short lived. It is doubtful that there will be a meaningful resumption of trials until a majority of the population is vaccinated and there is a comfort level of citizen participation in group settings. Virtual proceedings have limits and are subject to challenges.

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