NOTICE TO FAMILY LAW BAR
Due to Judge Hogan's retirement, Judge Baldwin has been reassigned to the Civil Division. Judge Baldwin has asked me to extend a sincere thank you to the Family Bar for their camaraderie and professionalism. As of January 17, 2012, all FM matters will be handled exclusively by Judge Smith and Judge Domzalski. The only exceptions will be some of the older FM cases that will stay with Judge Cook until conclusion and those matters which have already been assigned for trial to the Civil Division. Judge Cook will handle primarily non-dissolution matters and expand his role as the Lead Domestic Violence Judge in Burlington County. The primary purpose of this reallocation of judicial resources is to facilitate the availability of FM trial dates in the vicinage.
Judges of the Family Division and the Family Law Bar have enjoyed a superb working relationship unique to our vicinage. The years have taught us that the Bench and the matrimonial Bar are fully capable of confronting any challenge we face as we move forward. To better utilize the available trial time, Judge Smith and Judge Domzalski will be listing several matters for trial on the same date. This will allow us to maximize the trial time available which, in turn, will bring about the settlement of more cases. Even if a global resolution cannot be accomplished in the case, even a partial settlement will reduce the number of trial days required to bring a case to conclusion. Please note following an “unsuccessful” MESP, all counsel and parties will leave the courthouse with an Order providing for Economic Mediation or other CDR event with a subsequent date for a PTC and Trial. Failure to follow this procedure in the past has resulted in delayed dispositions. All experienced matrimonial counsel recognize the value of the various alternative dispute resolution programs available. Counsel are encouraged to utilize binding arbitration with the services of retired judges and your fellow experienced practitioners. In addition, a well prepared MESP Memo submitted by both sides to our experienced panelists is perhaps the most effective, and least expensive, way to resolve the litigation. Effective January 17, 2012, the number of motions to be heard each week will be limited to 25 cases. By definition, this will increase the time period between the filing of the motion and oral argument before the court. As always, counsel are encouraged to attempt to resolve any issues by agreement rather than engage in extensive motion practice. Because of the numbers, the judges will be requiring compliance with the Court Rules. Specifically, Rule 5:5-4(c), as to the filing time limitations, The judges will rarely, if ever, consider pleadings filed later than the close of business on the Thursday preceding the scheduled oral argument. Compliance with Rule 5:5-4(b), regarding page limitations, and Rule 1:4-9, concerning font size, will also be strictly enforced. Rest assured, the judges will require Rule compliance from both counsel and all litigants. A final matter concerns the burgeoning number of Orders to Show Cause confronting the judges on a daily basis. The standards for the issuance of an Order to Show Cause are set forth in the Court Rules and further defined in the case law. Orders to Show Cause will either be granted or denied and the former practice of often converting an Order to Show Cause to a motion on short notice will no longer be followed. To state it simply, it is either an Order to Show Cause or it is not. The above represents our attempt to accommodate the needs of the Bar and the litigants who appear daily before our judges. Even our former Family Division Judges (Baldwin, Covert and Haas) have offered to conference FM cases if their schedules permit. The rapport and collegiality between the Family Bench and the Family Bar in Burlington County remains unique and is a tribute to the professionalism of all participants. This relationship will allow us to meet the challenges facing the judiciary and the legal community in the future, My “Open Door Policy” and that of Judge Bookbinder will continue to address the concerns of the Family Law Bar. JOHN L. CALL, JR., P.J.F.P.