Coronavirus Daily Update: Brooklyn Justice Dies of Coronavirus Complications, Court Seeks Early Sept. Bar Exam

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Good evening Members,

Sad news for the legal community as Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Johnny Lee Baynes has died from complications of coronavirus, according to the state court system.

Baynes, 64, passed away March 26 from pneumonia due to the coronavirus.

“He was a long-standing, well-liked judge then justice,” Lucian Chalfen, spokesman for the Office of Court Administration, said in a statement. “He will be missed by all his colleagues both judicial and non-judicial.”

Baynes was elected in 2011 to a 14-year term of the Kings County Supreme Court in the Second Judicial District. He presided over civil court.

He was previously elected in the fall of 2004 to the New York City Civil Court and was assigned to Queens County. He also served as an acting justice for the Kings County Supreme Court, Civil Term. He got his start on the bench in 1993 as a housing court judge in Brooklyn.

“He was a great man, he was great to work for,” Judge Jill Epstein, who served as Justice Baynes’ law clerk for nine years, told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. “He pushed me, supported me and he was just the most gentle bear and lovely person. When people came into his courtroom, he wanted them to leave knowing they were treated with dignity and respect whether they were from a big firm or just some unrepresented pro se litigant. He tried to treat everybody fairly.”

Baynes began his career as a staff attorney for the New York City Housing Authority in their Housing Litigation Unit. He also worked for District Council 37, Municipal Employees Legal Services Plan, and the law firm of Rappaport, Krimko & Hertz.

He was a graduate of Howard University School of Law and Fordham University.

Chalfen said 15 judges in New York have tested positive for COVID-19.

Early September Bar Exam
Just one day after the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) Task Force on the New York Bar Examination recommended that the postponed July bar exam be rescheduled for a date close to Labor Day, the Court of Appeals met and decided it agreed.

In an announcement late Tuesday, the Court of Appeals said it is seeking to reschedule the postponed July bar exam for some time in early September, shortly before or after the Sept. 7 Labor Day holiday.

“I commend the Court of Appeals for taking such decisive action at this unprecedented time of uncertainty,” said NYSBA President Henry M. Greenberg. “It gives law students who have worked so hard a measure of comfort and predictability to know that the highest court in New York is on their side.”

The Court of Appeals will also explore the expansion of authority for practice orders that allow law graduates who meet specified criteria to engage in certain law practice under supervision of licensed attorneys, and is also waiving its limitations on distance learning for the Spring 2020 and Summer 2020 terms. NYSBA’s task force supported both measures in its report issued Monday.

Click here for more information on the Court of Appeals’ announcement.

Virtual Courts Expand to Nassau County, Southern Tier
As part of the Unified Court System’s ongoing response to the coronavirus pandemic, essential and emergency court operations in Nassau County will be conducted via Skype video conferencing. The switch began today.

A core team of essential courthouse staff, including court security, will remain in place at the County Courthouse to ensure that each court has the ability to intake papers, operate the Skype conferencing system, process orders, keep the court record, answer telephones and perform other essential court functions.

Also, beginning Monday, April 6, essential virtual court operations will commence via video conferencing throughout the Sixth Judicial District in Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Cortland, Delaware, Madison, Otsego, Schuyler, Tioga, and Tompkins counties.

Chief Judge Janet DiFiore said she expects all of New York City’s courts to operate virtually by the end of this week and in all Judicial Districts outside of New York City by the end of next week.

Latest NYSBA.ORG Coronavirus News
We are adding new content each day to our website related to the coronavirus public health emergency and its impact on the legal community.

Today we have tips for law students during their #StayAtHome Semester and details of how the Court of Appeals is seeking an early September bar exam following NYSBA’s recommendation. In case you missed it yesterday, we take a close look at how coronavirus is upending the legal world, lowering revenues and leading to job cuts.

 

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