In the News

NJ Litigation Reforms Would Allow for Quicker Day in Court


April 18, 2014

"Two recent proposals to reform civil litigation in New Jersey would prevent judges without business expertise from slowing complex commercial cases and help ensure that smaller disputes aren't bogged down because of excessive discovery and uncertain trial dates, attorneys told Law360.

This month, two committees that New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner formed issued recommendations targeting different ends of the spectrum when it comes to civil litigation.

In a report issued April 10, the Working Group on Business Litigation called for the statewide expansion of a pilot program in the Bergen and Essex vicinages under which one judge in each court with an expertise in business litigation — or an interest in developing that expertise — would be assigned to handle complex commercial cases. Those cases would be valued at $200,000 or more. ...

The judges would also have to write at least two opinions annually that would be posted on the judiciary's website. That may seem like a minor recommendation, but it could mean a significant boost to business-related jurisprudence, according to attorneys.

'As a practitioner, I find that I am facing the same issues without much guidance from prior New Jersey case law,' said Jeffrey Greenbaum, who chairs the class action group at Sills Cummis & Gross P.C. 'You shouldn't be constantly reinventing the wheel. By developing a bigger body of case law, I think the practice will be helped.' ...

Meanwhile, recommendations from the Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Expediting Civil Actions could help less-complex civil cases reach trial sooner and generally reduce litigation costs.

Issued on April 15, that committee's report proposed a pilot program in at least two vicinages that would cover most Track I and Track II cases unless litigants can meet specific opt out conditions. Track I cases include debt collection, negotiable instrument and lemon law matters, while Track II cases include construction, contract and personal injury disputes. ...

The program envisions initial case management conferences 45 days after the first responsive pleading and an expedited discovery process with limitations on interrogatories, document requests and depositions. The early, federal-style case management conference could be the most important recommendation, according to Greenbaum, who serves on the committee.

'By getting the lawyers in early, you get them to focus on the case, to focus on what they need in discovery and to think through how they're going to try the case if that comes about,' Greenbaum said. 'The faster that people do that, the faster the case is disposed.'”