Judges Juggle Over 2,700 Cases Each as Families Wait for Day in Court

THE NEW YORK TIMES

March 17, 2021

The federal courthouse in Newark. Federal judges in New Jersey handle caseloads that are more than three times the national average.

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Phillip White, an unarmed Black man, died in police custody in New Jersey six years ago. After the Vineland, N.J., officers involved in the encounter were cleared by a grand jury and their own department, Mr. White’s family filed a $10 million wrongful-death lawsuit in federal court, accusing one officer of using excessive force.

The suit, filed in 2016, has not yet gone to trial — one of 46,609 cases that were still awaiting action last year in U.S. District Court in New Jersey, according to the latest available figures.

Short-handed and deluged by complex cases, New Jersey’s federal court is in the throes of a crisis that lawyers and judges agree threatens a fundamental tenet of the legal system: access to justice. The backlog, already at worrisome levels before the pandemic, has only gotten worse in the last year as courtrooms closed and trials were halted to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Consistently ranked among the busiest courts in the country, New Jersey’s federal bench is also extraordinarily understaffed: One-third of its judicial seats are vacant and have been for years, leaving each seated judge with a pending caseload that is well over three times the national average.

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Menendez condemns Wisconsin senator over Jan. 6 comments

By Nikita BiryukovMarch 16 2021 

New Jersey Globe

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez. 

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U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-North Bergen) took to the Senate floor to issue a rare condemnation of Sen. Ron Johnson after the Wisconsin Republican said he wasn’t concerned when supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 but would have been were they black.

“I knew those were people who love this country, that truly respect law enforcement, would never do anything to break the law, so I wasn’t concerned,” Johnson said in a radio hit Thursday, adding later, “Had the tables been turned and President Trump won the election and tens of thousands of Black Lives Matter and antifa, I might have been a little concerned.”

Five people, including U.S. Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, were killed during the attempt to stop Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s victory.

At least 138 police officers were injured during the attack, some severely.

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On the vaccine, Trump tells his hesitant supporters: ‘I would recommend it.’

March 16, 2021

Protesters against masks, vaccines and vaccine passports gather outside the headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on Saturday in Atlanta, Georgia.Credit...

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Former President Donald J. Trump, in a nationally televised interview, recommended the Covid-19 vaccine to Americans who were reluctant to get it, including his supporters.

Mr. Trump and his wife, Melania, were vaccinated in secret in January. Vaccine proponents have been calling on him to speak more forcefully in favor of the shots to his legions of supporters, many of whom remain reluctant, polls show.

Speaking to Maria Bartiromo on “Fox News Primetime” on Tuesday evening, Mr. Trump said, “I would recommend it, and I would recommend it to a lot of people that don’t want to get it, and a lot of those people voted for me frankly.”

He added: “It is a safe vaccine, and it is something that works.”

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Judge’s ruling will send more kids into classrooms in embattled N.J. district

Posted Mar 16, 2021

A judge’s ruling in the disputed reopening of the South Orange-Maplewood school district has cleared the way for additional students to return to classrooms, starting next week.

The ruling by Superior Court Judge Jodi Alper on Tuesday is the latest twist in a battle over COVID-19 protocols, with the K-12 district’s officials seeking a full return to in-person instruction and the teachers’ union continuing to raise safety concerns.

While Alper ordered teachers in the 6th and 9th grades to return to classrooms, which administrators said will happen starting Monday, the ruling did not uphold the district’s request for an injunction against teachers’ union for exiting classrooms and working remotely from their homes, according to statements on the ruling from the district and the union. The judge’s written decision was not immediately available.

Students in kindergarten through second grade returned to classrooms on Monday.

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Van Drew says he received death threat after voting to overturn election in favor of Trump

Posted Mar 15, 2021

Rep. Jeff Van Drew said Monday that he received a death threat from a guest columnist for a South Jersey publication after he voted to reject certified votes that would make Joe Biden president.

The author, John McCall of Ocean City, wrote a column calling on the congressman to resign and accusing him of being “a faithful dog” to Donald Trump, whose supporters had stormed the Capitol just hours before Van Drew and a majority of House Republicans opposed certifying Biden’s victory in two battleground states.

McCall also called Van Drew’s office and said he would “do everything in my power to ensure that you are deposed if not dead,” and said that “you deserve the fate of all traitors,” according to a transcript released by the congressman and published in the Daily Journal of Vineland.

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Newark Public and Charter School Officials Ramp Up Efforts to Get Educators Vaccinated this Week

NEWARK, NJ — Educators in Newark will be rolling up their sleeves this week to get vaccinated thanks in part to the efforts of the city's public and charter school officials to prioritize and arrange appointments for their staff. 

Following Gov. Phil Murphy’s announcement earlier this month to expand vaccine eligibility to PreK-12 teachers and school support staff, Roger León, superintendent of Newark public schools, helped springboard this effort as prepare to get a shot at Barringer High School on Tuesday.  

“Superintendent León has spearheaded the vaccination of teachers and support staff in Newark because the health and safety of every staff member in district, charter, private, parochial, and early childhood center is of concern to him,” said Nancy Deering, a spokesperson for Newark Public Schools District.  “We know that he values the work underway with the leaders across the various school types and he applauds and commends their leadership in Newark.”

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N.J. could soon face a historic housing crisis. A city devastated by COVID-19 might be the epicenter.

Thousands of families forced from their homes. Homelessness at historic levels. A city already devastated by COVID-19 facing yet another crisis.

Newark is on the brink of a housing emergency — hastened by the coronavirus — that could have cascading effects across New Jersey.

More than 14,000 eviction cases are pending in Essex County court — most of them thought to involve Newark tenants — delayed because evictions have been suspended during the pandemic under Gov. Phil Murphy’s emergency order.

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Rachel Wainer Apter will be Murphy’s pick for New Jersey Supreme Court

By David WildsteinMarch 14 2021

New Jersey Globe

Rachel Wainer Apter, Gov. Phil Murphy's pick for a seat on the New Jersey Supreme Court, with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. 

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Gov. Phil Murphy will nominate Rachel Wainer Apter, a former law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, to serve as an Associate Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court, the New Jersey Globe has learned.

Murphy will formally announce Wainer Apter, the 40-year-old director of the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights and a former American Civil Liberties Union staff attorney, on Monday morning to replace Justice Jaynee LaVecchia.  LaVecchia announced last week that she would step down on August 31.

The election year nomination of Wainer Apter allows Murphy to name a second young woman to the Supreme Court in less than a year, a move that begins to establish what could be a legacy that lasts decades beyond his time as governor of New Jersey.

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Murphy’s promise of full public-worker pension payment breaks 25 years of underfunding

JOHN REITMEYER, BUDGET/FINANCE WRITER | MARCH 15, 2021 

NJ Spotlight News

Feb. 20, 2021: Gov. Phil Murphy delivers his pre-taped budget message in Trenton.

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Just the announcement that New Jersey wants to make a full public-worker pension payment during the state’s next fiscal year has thrilled labor union officials.

For more than two decades they’ve watched the state routinely short pension payments, allowing a huge unfunded liability to pile up.

“It is a stunning accomplishment and we’ve waited a really long time for someone to do it,” said Hetty Rosenstein, state director for the Communications Workers of America labor organization.

But for Gov. Phil Murphy — and the governors who will serve after him — the task only begins with that first full payment, which Murphy has promised the state will make during the fiscal year that begins July 1.

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Booker says he’s trying to permanently expand enhanced child tax credit

03/12/2021

Politico

Cory Booker speaks during an event in Elizabeth, N.J., to discuss the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.

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ELIZABETH — Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said Friday that he is working to permanently expand tax credits that were temporarily boosted as apart of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, a move he said could help middle class families across the country.

“I've tried to help coordinate a full court press in America to make the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit changes permanent in the United States of America, so we can join our industrial peers and invest in America's children,” he said during a press event in Elizabeth with Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Gov. Phil Murphy and others to discuss the American Rescue Plan Biden signed into law on Thursday.

Booker said he has spoken with the White House and business leaders on the matter. The new stimulus bill temporarily enhances the Child Tax Credit to a maximum of $3,600 per child for children under 6 and $3,000 for children ages 6 to 17, up from $2,000. The tax credits would also be available in monthly payments. The Earned Income Tax Credit almost tripled the maximum credit from $543 to $1,502.

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