Paul M. da Costa Quoted in Bergen Magazine Article, “Long Road To Justice.”

Mar 15, 2024

March 14, 2024

A shortage of judges is making many Bergen residents wait extra years to get their day in court.

The causes of the shortage are essentially twofold. One factor is simple attrition: Over the past several years, a relatively large number of judges in Bergen have retired, either for personal reasons or because they’ve reached the mandatory retirement age of 70. If those vacancies had been filled in a timely manner, we might be tackling the COVID backlog more efficiently. Unfortunately, the filling of those vacancies hasn’t been made a priority. In the early days of the pandemic, says Paul da Costa, a medical malpractice and personal injury attorney with the Hackensack firm Snyder Sarno D’Aniello Maceri & da Costa, “what you had was COVID almost masking the issue.” In other words, keeping the state running was, justifiably, more of a priority for the governor and the Legislature than appointing judges.


The shortage has had dire effects, especially on more complex civil cases, which can now take up to twice as long as they did before the shortage. “I used to tell my medical malpractice clients to figure on three to four years on average if their case ended up going to trial,” says da Costa. “Now I have to tell them it may be as much as five or six years or longer.” Johnson notes that, before the shortage, there were four judges in Bergen County working full time on matrimonial cases; at this writing there are effectively one-and-a-half—two individuals, one of whom works on matrimonial cases only half of the time. While virtually every civil case is taking longer to be heard, more complex cases have been hit hardest, as simpler cases have been prioritized in an effort to reduce the number of cases overall.

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