Chief Judge Thanks State Bar Association for Pro Bono Efforts During Pandemic

By Christian Nolan

January 25, 2021

Chief Judge Thanks State Bar Association for Pro Bono Efforts During Pandemic


By Christian Nolan

Good evening Members,

Chief Judge Janet DiFiore devoted a large portion of her weekly coronavirus update today to acknowledge the New York State Bar Association’s Annual Meeting and thank the state bar “and all of the lawyers across the state who have shown such incredible resilience and ingenuity in serving their clients during the pandemic.”

DiFiore pointed out that numerous judges and court attorneys from the state court system have been participating in NYSBA’s events over the course of the two-week virtual Annual Meeting and thanked the association for its pro bono efforts.

“While I’m on the topic of the State Bar, I’d like to thank all of the lawyers participating in the COVID-19 Pro Bono Recovery Task Force for providing urgently needed assistance to New Yorkers facing pandemic-related legal problems,” said DiFiore. “This has been a most inspiring effort, highlighted by the outpouring of 600 lawyers who stepped up and worked with our Surrogate’s Courts to provide legal help in probate matters to individuals and families who lost loved ones to COVID-19.”

Virtual Trials

DiFiore noted that 673 virtual bench trials and evidentiary and factfinding hearings were commenced last week statewide. DiFiore said that in order to capitalize on all of the excellent work that is being done to promote virtual trial activity at the local level, Nassau County Administrative Judge Norman St. George has been asked to oversee the task of collecting and collating these local plans. He will be shaping them into a uniform set of best practices to guide the statewide bench and bar in conducting virtual bench trials and hearings during the remainder of the pandemic, and beyond.

St. George is consulting on this project with the state court system’s Commission on the Future of New York’s Courts, and guidance for the conduct of virtual trials and proceedings is expected early next month.

Unindicted Felony Parts

Last week, DiFiore announced the court system’s new initiative to tackle the backlog of unindicted felony complaints awaiting grand jury presentation in New York City. She said week two of the initiative continued to move forward on a successful and productive track, as the nine judges sitting in their “Unindicted Felony Parts” remotely conferenced and heard 737 cases, resulting in another 295 dispositions. Over the two-week period, she said they have heard 1,830 cases and achieved dispositions in 657, or 36%, of the matters heard.

George Grasso, supervising judge for Criminal Court in Bronx County, is overseeing this citywide initiative and communicating with the district attorneys in each county as they continue to review their caseloads and identify additional cases they deem appropriate for conferencing in the Unindicted Felony Parts.

“It is our goal to continue operating these parts for as long as the district attorneys are able to identify a sufficient number of eligible cases to be heard,” said DiFiore. “We are grateful to the district attorneys, and to the members of the defense bar, for their cooperation and support as we seek to responsibly drive down this large backlog and provide timely justice to all parties involved.”

Annual Meeting’s Presidential Summit Wednesday

NYSBA’s 144th Annual Meeting continues through Jan. 29, featuring a wide range of programs including those pertaining to legal issues concerning the coronavirus pandemic.

The two-week virtual event is highlighted by the Presidential Summit on Wednesday, Jan. 27 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. entitled “The COVID-19 Pandemic: Legal, Constitutional, and Public Health Issues.”

One of the nation’s top constitutional law scholars, Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of Berkeley Law, and Dr. Irwin Redlener, a pediatrician, public health activist, author, academic, and advisor will speak at the event. Liz Benjamin, managing director of Marathon Strategies in Albany, will moderate the discussion.

Click here for more information about all of NYSBA’s remaining 2021 Annual Meeting events.

Also, stay tuned to our news center to get our latest Annual Meeting coverage.

COVID-19 Webinars

Wednesday, Feb. 3 – Your Ethical Obligation To Be Competent and Stay Current on New Technologies.

Wednesday, Feb. 10 – Liability for Injury Resulting From Administration of the COVID-19 Vaccine.

Tuesday, Feb. 16 – Virtual Arbitrations Are Here To Stay: What You Need To Know.

Latest NYSBA.ORG News

Our Annual Meeting coverage includes New York State Attorney General Letitia James, who delivered the keynote address about the importance of pro bono work in these uncertain times to NYSBA members during the President’s Committee on Access to Justice event.

Additionally, managing law firm partners foresee that the traditional firm environment will return at some point later this year, albeit with some changes. This was the assessment of partners on the Law Practice Management Annual Meeting program, “Managing Partner Roundtable: Maintaining Esprit De Corps & Other COVID-19 Challenges.”

Also during Annual Meeting last week, the lawyers and judge in the only Queens criminal jury trial since March discussed what it was like trying a case during COVID-19.

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