Daily Coronavirus Update: By Tomorrow, All State Courts Outside NYC Enter Phase Three

By Christian Nolan

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Good evening Members,

The New York State Unified Court System announced that by tomorrow all courts outside New York City will be in phase three of a return to in-person operations. Yesterday, all courts in New York City began phase two.

Courts in the Third Judicial District (Capital District area) and Ninth Judicial District (White Plains and surrounding counties) began phase three of a gradual return to in-person operations today and Long Island will enter phase three tomorrow.

Western New York, the North Country, along with Syracuse, Binghamton and Rochester, and their surrounding counties, have already begun the third phase of a gradual return to in-person court operations.

The goal of phase three, officials said, is to increase foot traffic in the courthouse in a measured manner and extend the types of proceedings to be heard in-person to include:

  • Child support proceedings
  • Selected plea and sentencing proceedings for defendants at liberty
  • Preliminary hearings in criminal cases for defendants being held in jail on felony complaints
  • Arraignments of defendants issued desk appearance tickets
  • A limited number of bench trials in civil matters
  • Essential Family Court matters will continue to be heard in-person

Judges will continue to expand their use of virtual proceedings whenever legally permissible and logistically possible. Where an in-person proceeding involves an incarcerated individual, that individual shall appear virtually via electronic means unless otherwise ordered by the assigned judge.

Non-essential matters, criminal proceedings (except as noted), juvenile delinquency proceedings and mental hygiene law proceedings pertaining to a hospitalized adult will continue to be held virtually and heard by the assigned judge. Mediation/alternative dispute resolution will be conducted virtually.

Judges and clerks will coordinate to ensure that court space is used to optimize safety and efficiency. There will be staggered scheduling of court appearances, court calendars and courtroom usage to limit the number of people in courthouses and ensure that no more than half of the courtrooms are being used at any given time.

During this third phase, non-judicial staffing levels will increase modestly to support necessary administrative court functions as well as to provide support for the moderate increase in foot traffic in the courthouse. Non-reporting court staff will continue to work virtually.

“To keep up our progress as we re-establish in-person courthouse operations across the state, we must proceed cautiously, remaining vigilant in following the new safety measures and operational protocols designed to protect the health of our judges, staff and court visitors,” said Chief Judge Janet DiFiore.

Phase One measures that will remain in place to protect the health and safety of judges, staff and court visitors include:

  • Anyone entering the courthouse will be required to wear a mask.
  • All staff who interact with court visitors must wear a mask.
  • Courthouse areas will be carefully marked to ensure proper physical distancing.
  • Court facilities will be regularly sanitized.
  • Installation of acrylic barriers, hand sanitizer dispensers and other safety features in courthouse areas as needed.

COVID-19 Webinars

Friday, June 26 – Long Term Care in COVID-19: Navigating Legal, Medical and Ethical Issues for Providers and Older Adults.

Friday, June 26 – Changed by COVID: Veterans’ Benefits Impacted by a Global Pandemic.

Tuesday, June 30 – Immunities in the Face of the COVID-19 Human Rights and Public Health Crisis.

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’re looking at how attorney well-being is taking on added urgency during the pandemic as New York State Bar Association President Scott M. Karson makes it a focus of his tenure.

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