Chief Judge Urges Vaccinations as Staffing Levels Increase

By Christian Nolan

Chief Judge Urges Vaccinations as Staffing Levels Increase

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Good afternoon Members,

Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, in her weekly coronavirus update today, urged all state court system judges and staff to get vaccinated, as they prepare to return to work at courthouses statewide on Monday, May 24.

Additionally, DiFiore said beginning today, judicial districts outside New York City have increased their staffing levels to around 60% to 80% and New York City is expected to follow suit shortly.

“…I cannot overstate how important it is for our judges and staff to get vaccinated in order to protect themselves, and protect all those around them, as we now move forward into our new and better normal,” said DiFiore. “And so, mindful that this is indeed a personal choice and that certain individuals may have valid reasons not to be immunized, I strongly encourage those of you who haven’t already done so to make an appointment to be vaccinated.”

DiFiore reiterated the point that the return to full courthouse staffing levels does not mean a return to full in-person operations.

“We will continue to rely on virtual operations and remote appearances to hear the large majority of court matters, and we are taking additional steps to ensure safe and manageable occupancy levels in our buildings, including the staggering of calendar times for court appearances, and limiting the number of cases that can be scheduled at any one time,” said DiFiore.

Virtual Matrimonial Trials

DiFiore explained that last September the state court system launched a pilot program for virtual bench trials in matrimonial matters. Utilizing Microsoft Teams and the NYSCEF e‐filing system, participating matrimonial judges in five pilot counties conducted virtual bench trials, including many complex and document‐heavy proceedings, she said.

A new virtual evidence courtroom module developed for the pilot program lets judges manage the evidence in their virtual courtrooms and enables lawyers to upload and share documents and evidence on the computer screen in real time during the course of a trial or proceeding.

On April 5, DiFiore said the pilot program and module were expanded to all contested matrimonial matters filed through NYSCEF, and in the last three weeks more than 120 virtual trials and evidentiary hearings have already been set up and will be expanded to non e‐filed matters as well.

“This is one more example of how the pandemic has impelled us to adopt innovative solutions that will be of lasting benefit to litigants and lawyers, during and beyond the pandemic,” said DiFiore.

NYSBA President to Speak at Law Day Event

During her address today, DiFiore invited everyone to attend the annual Court of Appeals’ Law Day ceremony on Monday, May 3, at 11 a.m. New York State Attorney General Letitia James will be the virtual Law Day co-host and NYSBA President Scott M. Karson will be the special guest speaker.

DiFiore said this year’s Law Day theme, “Advancing the Rule of Law Now,” offers a unique opportunity to reflect on the vital role of the courts and the legal profession in maintaining access to justice, protecting fundamental rights and upholding the rule of law during times of crisis.

Stay tuned to NYSBA’s social media for a link to watch next Monday morning’s virtual Law Day ceremony, including Karson’s speech.

COVID-19 Webinars

Wednesday, April 28 – Best Practices for Conducting Jury Trials During COVID-19.

Friday, April 30 – Landlord-Tenant Law During COVID: A Plague on Both Your Houses.

Tuesday, May 4 – Envisioning the Future of Law: Critical Lessons for NY Lawyers From the 2020 Legal Trends Report.

Latest NYSBA.ORG News

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

Hon. Edwina G. Mendelson, deputy chief administrative judge for justice initiatives, has issued a 10-page memo detailing the work of the state court system’s Office for Justice Initiatives and the early stages of the Equal Justice in the Courts Initiative.

NYSBA President Scott M. Karson has sent a letter to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo asking that 15 judges be appointed to fill vacancies in the Appellate Division of the state’s court system. The vacancies include seven in the Second Department, the state’s busiest court, and four each in the First and Third departments. There are no vacancies in the Fourth Department.

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