The Supreme Court has announced the expansion of the Attorney-Conducted Voir Dire (ACVD) pilot program to criminal matters in Atlantic, Cape May, Burlington and Hudson counties on or after April 1. The New Jersey State Bar Association encouraged attorney participation in the voir dire process generally to increase juror participation and address implicit bias in jurors, but raised concerns about the program’s requirements that the parties agree to a reduction in peremptory challenges to participate.
ACVD became available in Bergen, Camden and Middlesex counties as part of the Judiciary’s examination of the jury selection process with an aim toward preventing discrimination in the jury selection process. The program is limited to single defendant criminal matters and requires the consent of both the prosecuting attorney and defense counsel.
In the Court’s Judicial Conference on Jury Selection in November 2021, discussion focused on the efficacy of judge-led voir dires with concerns that they lead to implicit bias. The conference was called following the Supreme Court’s ruling in State v. Andujar, 247 N.J. 275 (2021), which held that a murder defendant was denied a fair trial when a prosecutor ran a background check on a Black prospective juror without judicial approval.
The NJSBA studied the issue and prepared an interim report, examining the role bias plays in the jury selection process, the function of for-cause and peremptory challenges in the justice system, and reforms to the process for jury selection. On judge-led voir dires, the NJSBA Working Group on Jury Selection raised concerns that jurors were not always willing to be truthful to judges who asked questions regarding potential biases and therefore found that judge-led voir dires had the potential to prevent the detection of implicit bias in jurors.
“In response to ongoing positive feedback, the Supreme Court has authorized further expansion of the ACVD pilot program for criminal judiciary trials,” said the Judiciary. To date, it is not known how many such trials have been conducted.
For more information on the NJSBA’s recommendations for jury reform, visit njsba.com; for information on the ACVD program or for the Judiciary’s plans for jury reforms, go to njcourts.gov, Notices to the Bar.
Supreme Court Seeks Comments on Civil Practice and Tax Court Committee Reports
The Supreme Court has requested comments by March 29 of the proposed rule amendments recommended for adoption by the Civil Practice Committee and the Tax Court Committee.
The Civil Practice Committee recommended several amendments to the court rules on a number of issues that include manner of service, withdrawal and substitution, and attorneys’ fees on appeals. Additionally, the committee proposed amendments to the discovery rules and guardianships. A full report may be found here.
The Tax Committee also recommended amendments to discovery rules and corrected a typographical error. A full report may be found here.
Comments must be submitted in writing and may be mailed to:
Administrative Director Glenn A. Grant
Administrative Office of the Courts
Attn: Rules Comments
Hughes Justice Complex
Post Office Box 037
Trenton, New Jersey 08625-0037
Comments may also be emailed to [email protected].
The committee reports are currently being reviewed by the NJSBA for comments.
This is a status report provided by the New Jersey State Bar Association on recently passed and pending legislation, regulations, gubernatorial nominations and/or appointments of interest to lawyers, as well as the involvement of the NJSBA as amicus in appellate court matters. To learn more, visit njsba.com.