Court Operations Running Smoothly, but Trial Capacity Must Expand

By Brandon Vogel

Court Operations Running Smoothly, but Trial Capacity Must Expand

4.25.2022

By Brandon Vogel

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In her biweekly address, Chief Judge Janet DiFiore said the return to full court operations continues in full swing and is progressing smoothly.

“Not only are our judges and professional staff busy scheduling and hearing jury trials and other in-person proceedings, but our administrative and supervising Judges are laser-focused on how we can increase our trial capacity going forward, because we know that our trial numbers must exceed our pre-pandemic levels if we expect to eliminate the case backlogs that have developed in many of our courts due to the impact of the pandemic,” said DiFiore.

Although it’s a challenge, she said the courts are well-equipped and eager to take on trials with the new skills and efficiencies that have developed over the past two years, including the hybrid model of in-person and virtual operations.

While the courts are focused on expanding the number of jury and bench trials, they are also following through on the commitment to presumptive early ADR and making a concerted push to expand ADR services in civil and family courts across the state.

“ADR was truly a bright spot for us during the pandemic, as tens of thousands of cases were referred to virtual and in-person mediation in 2020 and 2021 with an overall settlement rate of over 50%,” said DiFiore.

The courts have been filling vacant positions and adding ADR professionals in every Judicial District to assist in the full implementation of presumptive ADR and facilitate the continued growth and development of ADR services in every jurisdiction.

“There is no question in our minds that ADR will play a very significant role in our ability to efficiently process our dockets and reduce our pandemic-related backlogs,” said DiFiore. “We are fully committed to expanding presumptive ADR and making it a mainstay of the civil justice process in our state.”

Law Day
The annual “Court of Appeals Law Day Ceremony,” is scheduled for Monday, May 2, at 11 a.m.

New York State Attorney General Letitia James and State Bar President T. Andrew Brown will speak at the event. The courts will present the “Judith S. Kaye Service Awards” to a number of deserving court professionals who have gone above and beyond the call of duty and made remarkable contributions to the courts and the communities in the areas of heroism, community service and exemplary work performance.

“The Law Day theme for 2022, “Toward a More Perfect Union: The Constitution in Times of Change,” has a special significance for us this year given the bills that have been introduced in the Legislature to amend the State Constitution in order to reform and simplify the trial court structure for the benefit of all New Yorkers, who so rightly deserve and expect a modern court system that is easy to access, use and understand; that speeds, rather than impedes the resolution of cases; that enables our judges to provide coordinated justice services to families in crisis; that keeps litigation costs down for individuals and businesses; and that gives our judges and court staff the flexibility they need to perform their job functions effectively,” said DiFiore.

Legal Education Opportunity

After a two-year hiatus, the “New York State Legal Education Opportunity Program,” sponsored by the New York State Judicial Institute, returns this year on June 5.

LEO is an intensive six-week summer program that is taught by law school professors and assists college graduates from educationally or economically disadvantaged backgrounds in acquiring the fundamental and practical skills necessary to succeed in law school. The students not only receive classroom instruction on first-year core courses in law school, including legal research and writing, but they are also given the opportunity to visit courts in session and meet with and interact with lawyers and judges.

It promotes diversity in the legal profession by improving the probability of law school success for students who come from groups that are traditionally underrepresented in the legal field. In the words of the dean of the Judicial Institute, Judge Kathie Davidson, it is an “enriching and valuable learning experience that prepares aspiring law students from underrepresented communities to succeed in law school through education, exposure and mentorship.”

Upcoming CLE Webinars

Wednesday, April 27  – EDiscovery In 2022: Preserving, Collecting, Reviewing, And Producing New Data Sources

Thursday, April 28  – Smooth Moves 2022 & George Bundy Smith Award Ceremony

Friday, April 29  – The Importance Of State Courts Protecting Civil Rights And Liberties

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The New York State Bar Association will honor lawyers who have made an exceptional commitment to serving the public good as part of the 31st Annual President’s Pro Bono Service Awards on May 2.

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