Coronavirus Daily Update: Executive Order Addresses Concerns About Remote Witnessing

By Christian Nolan

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Good evening Members,

Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a new executive order today that addresses remote witnessing. The order, among other issues, clarifies the requirements needed to allow the remote signings of such documents as deeds, wills, powers of attorney forms and healthcare proxies.

The order states that the law authorizes the use of audio and video technology if the following conditions are met:

• The person requesting that his or her signature be witnessed, if not personally known to the witness(es), must present valid photo ID to the witness(es) during the video conference, not merely transmit it prior to or after;

• The video conference must allow for direct interaction between the person and the witness(es), and the supervising attorney, if applicable (e.g. no pre-recorded videos of the person signing);

• The witnesses must receive a legible copy of the signature page(s), which may be transmitted via fax or electronic means, on the same date that the pages are signed by the person;

• The witness(es) may sign the transmitted copy of the signature page(s) and transmit the same back to the person; and

• The witness(es) may repeat the witnessing of the original signature page(s) as of the date of execution provided the witness(es) receive such original signature pages together with the electronically witnessed copies within thirty days after the date of execution.

Virtual Courts to Expand April 13
The New York State Unified Court System officially announced today that beginning Monday, April 13 its virtual courts will begin handling more than just essential and emergency matters.

In a memo issued today to all trial justices and judges, Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence K. Marks said the judges should review their caseloads to see which court conferences can be helpful in advancing a case, including achieving a resolution. Judges can also schedule conferences at the request of attorneys, and can be available during normal court hours to address discovery disputes and other ad hoc concerns.

The conferences must be done remotely by Skype or telephone.

Marks said courts that have high volume calendars, such as compliance and trial assignment parts primarily in New York City Supreme Courts and large downstate suburban counties, are reviewing existing calendars and identifying cases that can be assigned to judges to conduct remote conferences.

“…The goal is for judges to help advance the progress of the case and facilitate their resolution,” said Marks.

Judges are also being asked to decide fully submitted motions.

“This is an ideal time for individual judges to take this opportunity to resolve any backlogs of undecided motions and other matters in their case inventories,” said Marks. “We will be activating law departments in those counties that have them, to assist you in drafting decisions.”

Marks said other steps would be taken in the weeks ahead to further increase access to justice in non-essential matters.

Free Webinar Tomorrow
On Wednesday, April 8 from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., NYSBA will be presenting its third of three weekly updates and discussions on legal and practical issues arising from COVID-19. The one-hour webinar is free for members and will feature four experienced labor and employment lawyers from Bond, Schoeneck & King.

Speakers will summarize the week’s latest federal and state guidelines, inform participants about approaches being taken by employers and industry leaders, share the questions they are hearing and provide an update.

Click here for more information.

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 a list of resources that may help solos and small firms maintain operations remotely. Also, Jonathan Lippman, former chief judge of New York, who leads the partnership between NYSBA and the New York State Unified Court System to build a network of pro bono lawyers in response to the coronavirus outbreak, talks about why this network is so critical, how lawyers can get involved, and what types of legal services will be needed.

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