In Essex County, couples will soon again say, 'I don't'

Posted: July 29, 2012

NEWARK, N.J. - Divorce proceedings and other "matrimonial trials" will soon resume in Essex County, several months after they were put on hold because of a shortage of judges.

County Assignment Judge Patricia Costello notified the county bar association on Friday that she hopes to resume the cases Sept. 1, the Newark Star-Ledger reported. Costello said that could happen because Chief Justice Stuart Rabner of the state Supreme Court has agreed to temporarily transfer three Superior Court judges to the county.

Costello suspended matrimonial trials in December, citing the judge shortage caused by a political standoff between Gov. Christie and State Sen. Ronald Rice (D., Essex).

"Complex" civil trials - such as product-liability cases - were also suspended at that time but resumed in March after court officials put into practice a patchwork of temporary measures.

Criminal trials and family court cases involving domestic violence, parental rights, or juvenile cases were unaffected by Costello's directives. But overall, the civil and matrimonial trials that were suspended account for about 15 percent of the court docket.

The dispute between Christie and Rice began about 19 months ago.

Citing reservations about Christie's approach to education reform, Rice used senatorial courtesy in a bid to block the permanent appointment of acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf. Meanwhile, Christie refused to act on any of the proposed Essex judicial nominees.

Rabner's decision to transfer the three judges means there will now be 10 judicial vacancies among the county's 44 allotted positions.

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