Chief Judge Hints at Vaccine Mandates, SDNY Requires Masks Again

By Christian Nolan

Chief Judge Hints at Vaccine Mandates, SDNY Requires Masks Again

8.9.2021

By Christian Nolan

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Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, during her coronavirus update today, hinted that the state court system could soon consider vaccine mandates for its employees.

“Recent reporting indicates that the FDA, which authorized ‘emergency use’ of the COVID vaccine, may, in the coming weeks, grant full approval and licensure of the vaccine,” said DiFiore. “If that comes to pass, employers, institutions and state and local governments across the country will likely be prompted to implement vaccine mandates – a measure that, we too, will seriously consider.”

DiFiore did not elaborate further but did say she would keep everyone informed about it going forward.

The chief judge did announce that new protocols will require all state Unified Court System judges and non-judicial employees who have not been vaccinated to be tested regularly for COVID-19. Judges and court staff who have been vaccinated – and who have enrolled in the program certifying their vaccinated status – will not have to undergo COVID-19 testing.

The new protocols will go into effect on Tuesday, Sept. 7.

To date, over 7,700 judges and court employees have applied for and received their cards proving their vaccinated status, which allows them to enter and remain in all public areas of state court facilities without wearing a mask.

“And again, I want to assure you that as your health and safety remain a foremost priority for us, every day we are closely monitoring the COVID metrics and looking to the guidance of our state and local health officials to assist us,” said DiFiore. “And we stand ready – on even the shortest of notice – to adjust our mask policy and other health safety protocols as circumstances warrant.”

SDNY Requires Masks Again

Once again, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York is requiring everyone to wear masks in public and non-public areas of the courthouse. Previously, the SDNY had eased restrictions in June to allow fully vaccinated people to not have to wear masks in courtroom wells.

The new restrictions were announced Friday by Chief Judge Laura Taylor Swain. The move comes during an uptick in coronavirus cases due to the Delta variant.

“You must wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth in all public areas of the courthouse (including hallways, public counters, elevators and courtrooms), except that testifying witnesses and attorneys speaking from semi-enclosed podiums that have been outfitted with HEPA filters should follow the directions of the presiding judicial officer (or member of their staff) regarding mask usage,” Swain wrote in her order. “You must also wear a mask in all non-public shared space/common areas where more than one person is assigned to work. These rules apply unless a specific exception has been requested and approved by the Court’s COVID-Response Team prior to your entry to the courthouse.”

Court System Addresses Implicit Bias

DiFiore today also announced that the state court system has created a new juror orientation video, “Jury Service and Fairness,” that will be shown at the very start of jury service, regarding implicit bias, which she described as bias that is unconscious and automatic.

The video, which is available at nyjuror.gov, describes what implicit bias is, and how jurors can ensure they are making decisions without relying on biases or stereotypes.

DiFiore said they are also reviewing for adoption, judge’s instructions to jurors explaining the concept of implicit bias and reminding jurors to be aware of their own implicit biases in their decision-making.

Both the video and judge’s instructions to jurors on implicit bias are part of the Equal Justice Initiative to address racial bias in the state court system.

The court system is also developing a program on implicit bias geared specifically to court officers and their duties, and that training will be introduced this fall. Additionally, training programs on implicit bias for judges and court staff across the state are also being developed.

New Administrative Judge in NYC

The state court system announced late today the appointment of Hon. Carolyn Walker-Diallo as administrative judge of the New York City Civil Court.

Walker-Diallo, whose appointment is effective Aug. 16, will oversee the management of the New York City Civil Court which, operating in each of the City’s five boroughs, handles lawsuits involving damages up to $25,000, including small claims cases, as well as landlord-tenant and other matters.

Walker-Diallo is filling a vacancy left by Judge Anthony Cannataro’s appointment this past June to the New York State Court of Appeals. Hon. George J. Silver, deputy chief administrative judge for the New York City Courts, has been serving as administrative judge on an interim basis.

 

Walker-Diallo was elected to the New York City Civil Court in 2016 and initially assigned to the New York City Criminal Court in Kings County. She has been sitting in New York City Civil Court for the past three years, first in Manhattan, and since 2019 in Brooklyn, upon her designation as an acting Supreme Court justice and supervising judge of the New York City Civil Court in Kings County. Prior to taking the bench, she was general counsel and chief compliance officer for Brooklyn Community Services and before that served as a New York City administrative law judge. Previously, she maintained a law and mediation practice, and served as an assistant corporation counsel with the New York City Law Department and as executive director for The George Walker Jr. Community Coalition. She began her legal career as a litigation associate at the firm of Milbank.

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Latest NYSBA.ORG News

In addition to coronavirus updates, we are adding other interesting new content to our website.

The New York State Bar Association will present a special webinar on Monday, Aug. 16, from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. that will closely examine the impeachment process laid out in the state Constitution and present a legal analysis of challenges and pitfalls both the governor and lawmakers will face in the coming weeks. The event is free and open to the public.

NYSBA and two Iowa bar associations were honored with the prestigious 2021 Harrison Tweed Award Friday at the virtual business meeting of the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defense. NYSBA President T. Andrew Brown and Immediate Past President Scott M. Karson were present via Zoom to accept the award for the association’s efforts to extend pro bono services to the underserved during the coronavirus pandemic.

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