The Supreme Court had not addressed the speedy trial provisions of New Jersey’s 2017 Criminal Justice Reform Act until this case. The Act allows prosecutors 90 days to get an indictment and another 180 days to bring a case to trial, subject to “excludable time.” It also imposes a two-year limit on pretrial detention, extended only by delays attributable to the defendant. The Office of the Public Defender and the ACLU-NJ filed a brief urging the Court to hear the case, given the important issues at stake.
During the peak of the COVID pandemic, when trials could not happen because jurors could not be summoned, the Supreme Court issued an excludable time order. Although that Order was undoubtedly proper, we argued that the months that followed, where courts were wading through the backlog caused by the suspension of trials, did not provide a basis for excludable time.
We also argued that motions for leave to appeal speedy trial orders should not create excludable time because they do not slow down the prosecutor’s ability to move the case. Defendants do not seek stays, and, indeed, want the case to move forward while the discrete issue of excludable time is being litigated.