To help avert an avalanche of landlord-tenant cases that could overwhelm the state’s court system, an order from the New Jersey Supreme Court mandates statewide settlement conferences in such cases—which since last summer have been on a strictly voluntary basis.

A release on Friday from the Supreme Court said the conferences are an attempt to resolve cases without a trial. Priority will go to the oldest pending cases with the most unpaid rent and any newly filed cases where more than 12 months’ rent is owed.