New Jersey Supreme Court Holds Denial of Right to Jury Trial Not Within Panoply of Sanctions in a Trial Court’s Arsenal
Recently, the New Jersey Supreme Court unanimously held that trial courts may not deprive civil litigants of their constitutionally protected right to a jury trial as a sanction for failure to comply with a procedural rule. In Williams v. American Auto Logistics, the pro se plaintiff’s complaint did not include a jury demand, but the defendant’s answer did. The defendant later sought to waive its jury demand, but the plaintiff withheld his consent, which was required by court rules. Notwithstanding the lack of consent, the trial judge granted the request to waive the jury as a sanction against the plaintiff for his failure to provide the pre-trial disclosures required by Rule 4:25-7. The Appellate Division affirmed the trial court’s waiving of the jury as a sanction for the plaintiff’s failure to comply with Rule 4:25-7.