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Virtual court proceedings to continue in NJ post-pandemic
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Virtual court proceedings to continue in NJ post-pandemic

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Kyle Rittenhouse played a direct role in choosing, albeit randomly, the final 12 jurors who are deciding his innocence or guilt in the murder trial over his killing two protesters and wounding a third last summer. At the direction of Circuit Judge Bruce Schroder, Rittenhouse's attorney on Tuesday placed slips of paper into a raffle drum bearing the numbers of each of the 18 jurors who sat through the two-week trial. Rittenhouse, with the jury watching, then selected six pieces of paper from the drum, and a court official read the numbers aloud.

TRENTON — Virtual court proceedings will continue to be a feature of New Jersey’s judicial landscape after the pandemic subsides.

The state Supreme Court issued an order Thursday noting that, although bringing parties together is important in many cases, virtual proceedings have reduced time and costs and have created fewer scheduling conflicts.

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More than 250,000 court proceedings have been held virtually since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020. In-person criminal trials were suspended for several months and resumed on a limited basis last fall.

Thursday’s order “contemplates a transition from almost all in-person court proceedings before the pandemic to a future that uses technology to provide expanded options for access, participation, timeliness and justice,” the Supreme Court wrote.

Criminal jury trials, evidence hearings and sentencings will proceed in person, as will trials held in front of a judge but no jury — called bench trials — unless all parties consent to conducting them virtually. Oral arguments in front of the Supreme Court and appellate division also will generally be held in person.

Proceedings such as motion hearings and status conferences, first appearances of defendants already in custody and most municipal hearings and trials will be conducted virtually, according to the order.

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