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The New Jersey Municipal Court will start to slowly reopen for business on May 11, 2020. The Courts will be conducting a limited amount of appearances for those matters that can potentially be resolved via phone and video conference. The amount and types of cases that the courts will hear will be determined by the individuals court’s technological abilities. This means that some courts may resolve many cases and some may resolve none.

Regardless, over the course of the last few weeks, in anticipation of this, I have received calls from several prosecutors from several different municipal courts, including Union, East Brunswick, Palisades Interstate Court, and Elizabeth, to name a few. These negotiations over the phone have really paid off and I was able to negotiate some very good plea agreements for my clients. The charges included traffic matters, such as driving without insurance, speeding, driving while suspended or revoked, careless driving with an accident and without and leaving the scene of an accident. Additionally, I was able to resolve a few criminal cases too involving possession of marijuana under 50 grams of and possession of CDS in a motor vehicle.

Superior Courts have been ahead of the municipal courts in having virtual court sessions. The more serious drug cases and crimes are at the Superior Court level and I have been doing a good amount of virtual court appearances over the last month.

President Trump signed an Executive Order on April 22, 2020 suspending the entry of individuals on an immigrant visa for 60 days.  “Immigrant visa” refers to an application for permanent residency (i.e., green card) obtained at a U.S. consulate or embassy abroad. The Order provides exceptions for  certain lawful permanent residents, holders of existing, valid immigrant visas and similar U.S. travel documents, the spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens, and EB-5 immigrants among others.  The order takes effect on April 23, 2020.

The Order does not affect the processing or filing of applications for adjustment of status in the United States.  Further, H-1B, L-1 and other nonimmigrant programs are not immediately affected, but the Order directs DHS and DOL to make a study of the impact of temporary foreign workers on U.S. workers.  The results of the study could prompt future restrictions on these nonimmigrant programs.

The suspension will initially last for 60 days, but may be continued “as necessary.”

I was contacted by several municipal prosecutors this work asking if we could work out some of my existing client’s cases by something called a plea by affidavit. This mechanism is typically only used for out of state residents or those who do not have the ability to come to court. As part of a plea by affidavit, there would typically be a requirements that the defendant provide reasons in a certification about why it would be a hardship for that person to come to court.

Obviously, given the covid 19 outbreak, Courts are not requiring such a thing for some matters. Most of the calls that I received were for traffic related offenses other than DWI. However, I suspect that in the coming weeks there will a push to resolve existing municipal court matters, including disorderly persons offenses (simple assault, marijuana possession, shoplifting,etc.) through a plea by affidavit. Otherwise the backlog of cases could get out of hand for the municipal court.

That being said, I think that there is a great opportunity for many of these cases to resolve very favorably for my clients and I will continue to push for this sort of resolution. In addition, just because the courts are closed does not mead that the police have stopped working. Over the course of the last few weeks, I have seen many DWI, domestic violence, shoplifting, harassment and drug arrest, just to name a few. I have been consulting with new and existing clients. I have been communicating with police records on my new cases and police records in many jurisdictions is providing discovery which give me the ability to work towards a resolution of the case.

On April 1, 2020, USCIS extended the temporary suspension of all routine face-to-face services with applicants at all USCIS offices, including all interviews, naturalization ceremonies, and biometric collection appointments through May 3, 2020.  USCIS offices will re-open on May 4 unless the public closures are extended further.

USCIS will reschedule all appointments when normal operations resume.

The immigration lawyers at Lubiner, Schmidt & Palumbo are accepting new clients and we are available to consult via video chat, including iphone, android and all other video conferencing services. We are also available for by appointment office consults. If you have any questions about your ability to file an immigration applications currently and how these closures would affect that, please do not hesitate to contact us.

The answer is it depends. The municipal courts are not holding court sessions. Municipal courts are responsible for traffic violations including DWI and disorderly persons criminal offenses (misdemeanors). They are issuing future court dates but are also trying to set up virtual court to expedite those dates. If you have a traffic charge or disorderly persons criminal offense violation like possession of less than 50 grams of marijuana or DWI, then your court date may be a few months out, but it will not go away. It is still important to address it sooner rather than later and begin the process. Police records are still producing discovery and all other documents and I expect that that courts will expecting litigants to be at least somewhat prepared to go. I think those that are ready, and willing to proceed early on when sessions resume may get favorable deals, since they will not be contributing to the municipal court backlog.

Superior Court, Criminal Division, is quickly making progress with virtual court via video. These courts are responsible for more serious offenses called indictable offenses. Indictable offenses are also called felony offenses. First, Second, Third and Fourth degree indictable offenses are the responsibility of the Superior Court. Drug possession and distribution charges for heroin, cocaine, prescription pills, theft and shop lifting over $500, aggravated assault, weapons and guns charges, eluding the police, robbery, terroristic threats, sex assault, etc. are a few examples of these types of offenses.   I personally handled three matters this week via video court, 2 in Union County and one in Morris. It was actually pretty seamless.  I think that as the weeks progress, we will see a marked increase in the number of cases handles by the courts and the timelines moving up considerably. Likewise, I think in the interim, there will be a good opportunity to resolve cases favorably. The reason I say this is because I believe that the courts do not want to put people in jail right now. They want a reason to not put them in jail.

I think that I have a window to get really good results if I can get cases hear. For example, I had a client who was facing two First Degree count of robbery, with a bad prior record, looking at an extended term, possibly 30 years. I was able to get him a 5 flat sentence and kept him eligible for ISP, intensive supervision program. He already had 8 months in, he will likely be out as soon as he gets in. I highly doubt this would have happened two weeks ago.

In a speech addressing the COVID-19 virus, President Donald Trump announced Wednesday night that he is suspending travel from Europe in an effort to mitigate the spread of the virus.

The White House issued a presidential proclamation shortly thereafter that restricts foreign nationals who have been physically present in the Schengen Area from entering the U.S.

The Schengen Area comprises 26 European countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

People who are thinking about applying to naturalize as a U.S. citizen may want to fast track their decision. USCIS announced a series of changes in filing fees which, if approved, would take effect in 2020. Among the fee changes, naturalization applications will seeing the highest increase from $725 to $1,255 (including biometrics).

If you have had your green card for at least five years, you may be eligible to naturalize if you have physically resided in the U.S. for at least half (2.5 years) of the preceding 5 years. Any trips outside of the U.S. for more than 6 consecutive months may break the continuous residency requirement unless you can prove that you were domiciled in the U.S. Any trips outside the U.S. for more than 12 consecutive months will definitely break the requirement.

If you obtained your green card through marriage, you may be eligible to naturalize after you’ve been married for 3 years and have had your green card for 3 years. You must also meet the continuous residency requirement – in this case, 1.5 years in the preceding 3 years. If it has been fewer than 5 years since you got your green card and you are naturalizing based on marriage to a U.S. citizen, you will also have to provide proof that you are still married.

US Citizenship & Immigration Services released a new version of Form I-9.  The new form bears a revision date of 10/21/2019.  Prior versions of the I-9 form are not authorized.  Employers have until April 30, 2020 to use the new version of the form.  To avoid unnecessary complications in the event of an ICE audit, employers should destroy blank copies of the old version of the I-9 form and distribute the new form for use immediately.

 

Employers use Form I-9 to verify their employees’ employment authorization in the United States.  Employers and employees must complete Form I-9, and employees must supply documents establishing their right to work in the United States by the third day of employment.  eVerify is not a substitute for this requirement.  Employers that participate in eVerify must also complete Form I-9.  Although USCIS publishes a Spanish language version of the I-9, the Spanish version is only authorized for use in Puerto Rico.  All other employers must use the English Language version of the form.

If you have any questions regarding this update, or any other immigration matter, please contact the immigration attorneys at Lubiner Schmidt & Palumbo LLC at (908) 709-0500 or info@lslawyers.com.

On January 30, 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it will begin implementing the new public charge regulations on February 24, 2020. The regulations broadly expand the list of public benefits that can be considered, as well as the discretion given to immigration officers when deciding whether someone is “more likely than not” to become a public charge.

The rule was originally scheduled to take effect on October 15, 2019 but was blocked by nationwide injunctions filed by several federal judges across the country. The Supreme Court of the United States recently ruled in favor of the Trump administration to allow implementation of the regulations while legal challenges play out in the lower courts. The public charge rule will not be applied in the State of Illinois where a statewide injunction is still in place.

The public charge rule applies to certain adjustment of status (also known as green cards) applicants, as well as non-immigrants seeking to change their status or extend their stay. USCIS will apply the new standards to applications or petitions that are postmarked on or after February 24, 2020.

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