Chief Judge DiFiore on Jury Trials and ADR Benefits
Good afternoon members,
In her weekly address to the public, Chief Judge Janet DiFiore reported on the increased role and benefits of alternative dispute resolution during the pandemic and the results of the jury pilot.
“Over the past five weeks, the courts outside New York City working with the Bar have done a careful, deliberate and successful job of scheduling 70 civil and criminal jury trials. Twenty-one trials have been completed, 2 are still in progress, 37 resulted in settlements and pleas, 9 have been adjourned, and there was one mistrial,” said DiFiore. “And for this coming week, we have scheduled another 10 jury trials — 5 criminal and 5 civil — in most of our Judicial Districts outside the City.”
The current plan is to restart civil jury trials in New York City next week, with careful monitoring of the COVID metrics in different areas of the City. No final decisions have been made on the locations of these trials.
DiFiore said there are no immediate plans to return to the densely crowded courthouses pre-COVID. “We are now at about 10% of the capacity we routinely experienced before the onset of COVID, and we are working around the clock to expand our virtual capacity in order to accommodate the demand for our services.”
Last week, the courts began their transition to the new Microsoft Teams platform, which offers a better experience and more capabilities for the increasing number of virtual trials. In addition, the courts completed expansion of e-filing to all five boroughs of the New York City Housing Court, an enormous benefit for the litigants and lawyers in that very busy court.
DiFiore said, “With respect to ADR, our virtual model has played and will continue to play a key role in our ability to efficiently settle cases and move our dockets forward.” The courts were able to settle approximately 20,000 matters through ADR and many thousands more through traditional court settlement efforts from April through September.
“Staff in our ADR Office are working equally hard to support the front line efforts, providing virtual training for judges, court staff and outside neutrals on a regular basis, reaching out to bar associations and law schools to recruit additional neutrals, and last week, rolling out a number of online tools to support and encourage virtual mediation, including a user-friendly statewide directory of nearly 800 court-approved mediators and a post-mediation survey to allow lawyers and litigants to evaluate the quality of the mediation services received so that we have the information we need to assess the value of our ADR services,” said DiFiore.
DiFiore also reported that the online bar examination went “very well” based on all reported information.
PPP Loan Forgiveness
The Small Business Administration (SBA) released new simplified guidance on PPP loan forgiveness. This action streamlines the PPP forgiveness process to provide financial and administrative relief to America’s smallest businesses while also ensuring sound stewardship of taxpayer dollars.
SBA began approving PPP forgiveness applications and remitting forgiveness payments to PPP lenders for PPP borrowers on Oct. 2. SBA will continue to process all PPP forgiveness applications in an expeditious manner.
Thursday, October 15 – Litigating Nursing Home Cases Post The COVID-19 Pandemic
We are adding new content each day to our website related to the coronavirus public health emergency and its impact on the legal community.
We take a look at the court’s upgrade from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams. We also examine whether an attorney may withdraw from representation, with the permission of the Immigration Court, based on fear of contracting COVID-19 as a result of in-person appearances in the proceeding in our latest ethics opinion.