Chief Judge Urges State Officials To Allow Judges To Be Vaccinated

By Christian Nolan

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Good evening Members,

In her weekly coronavirus update today, Chief Judge Janet DiFiore urged state officials to immediately expand the vaccination guidelines to include judges.

DiFiore said she’s pleased that court officers and other professional court staff, who regularly interact with the public in courthouses, are eligible to receive the vaccine and noted that some have received it.

“Failure to include judges in the priority category runs counter to our ability and our efforts to maximize the provision of justice services, and to our central role in protecting public safety and upholding the rule of law,” said DiFiore. “I assure you that we are persisting in our efforts to have judges included, and we hope to soon be in a position to inform you that the Department of Health’s regulations have been amended to prioritize the vaccination of judges.”

Unindicted Felony Caseload

DiFiore also explained today that the number of unindicted felony complaints awaiting grand jury presentation in New York City has doubled over the past year and now hovers at around 16,000. She said the backlog is due to the impossibility of safely empaneling grand juries during the early months of the pandemic. Even now,  the state court system can only empanel a limited number of grand juries.

In an effort to respond to the backlog, DiFiore announced a new initiative to provide a forum in which these cases can be heard. She said the district attorneys’ offices will conduct a review of their pending unindicted felony caseload – as they would if the grand jury system was operating at full capacity – in order to identify those cases that may be appropriate for disposition, rather than “passively wait by for the unknowable day in the future when sufficient grand juries can be safely empaneled to hear these pending matters.”

DiFiore said the district attorneys initially identified over 2,300 cases they deemed eligible to be conferenced in their “Unindicted Felony Parts,” and nine of the most experienced acting Supreme Court justices have been assigned to preside over these parts and remotely conference the designated cases in all five boroughs. She said that during the first week of operations last week, almost 1,100 cases were heard, and dispositions were achieved in a full third (363) of the matters heard.

“The overwhelming majority of these cases being heard in the Unindicted Felony Parts involve defendants who are at liberty,” explained DiFiore. “And notwithstanding the fact that speedy trial requirements are presently suspended by executive order, fairness to all parties dictates that these matters receive a timely and responsible review. And equally important, we have a responsibility to proactively manage our dockets and avoid the build-up of backlogs that could delay our ability to resume normal operations at full speed when the pandemic finally subsides.”

Annual Meeting Starts Tomorrow

NYSBA’s 144th Annual Meeting begins tomorrow and runs through Jan. 29, featuring a wide range of programs 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 Irwin Redlener, a pediatrician, public health activist, author, academic, and advisor will speak at the event.

Numerous other events during the week will examine the legal implications of the pandemic including:

  • State Tax Implications From the Pandemic – Health Law Section – Wednesday, Jan. 20, 10:45 a.m. – 12 p.m.
  • Conducting a Jury Trial in the Shadow of COVID-19 – Criminal Justice Section – Wednesday, Jan. 20, 10:10 a.m. – 12 p.m.
  • How Attorneys Can Use Court-Sponsored ADR Programs and Other Tools To Move Along Their Pandemic-Delayed Cases – Commercial and Federal Litigation Section – Wednesday, Jan. 20, 1:40 p.m. – 3:05 p.m.
  • Managing Partner Roundtable: Maintaining Esprit De Corps & Other COVID-19 Challenges – Thursday, Jan. 21, 1 p.m. – 2 p.m.
  • Employment Litigation in the Wake of COVID-19- Friday, Jan. 22, 10:40 a.m. – 11:55 a.m.
  • Vaccines: Legal Mandates and Challenges – Food, Drug and Cosmetic Law Section – Monday, Jan. 25, 8:10 a.m. – 9 a.m.

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

Also, stay tuned to our news center to get the latest stories on Annual Meeting throughout these next two weeks.

You may also follow Annual Meeting proceedings on Twitter  at @NYSBA (#NYSBA21), Facebook (New York State Bar Association) and Instagram (@nystatebar).

COVID-19 Webinars

Friday, Jan. 22 – PPP Loans: Eligibility, Documentation and First and Second Draw Loan Applications.

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

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

Honoring attorneys who render extraordinary service to the public and the profession is part of NYSBA’s Annual Meeting tradition. NYSBA will honor Appellate Division judges at tomorrow’s 2021 Constance Baker Motley Symposium, including the Diversity Trailblazer Award and inaugural Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Beacon Award.

Retired Judge Charles E. Ramos, who served as a Supreme Court judge in New York County for 31 years, including 23 years in the Commercial Division until his retirement in 2018, writes his thoughts about why the national political mood turned so nasty and suggests that judicial restraint might be the key to a remedy.

Also, NYSBA provides information on New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s 2021 State of the State Address, as the governor released a number of proposals that address a variety of issues of interest to NYSBA and its members.

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