Daily Coronavirus Update: Court System Begins Phase Four, Temperature Checks for All Visitors

By Christian Nolan

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Good evening Members,

The New York State Unified Court System has announced that beginning tomorrow courts in the Fifth Judicial District (Syracuse and surrounding counties), Sixth Judicial District (Binghamton and surrounding counties) and Seventh Judicial District (Rochester and surrounding counties) will begin phase four of a return to in-person operations.

Then on Monday, July 6, courts in the Fourth Judicial District (northern New York) and Eighth Judicial District (western New York) will begin phase four.

During phase four, the following types of proceedings will be heard in-person:

  • Child support proceedings
  • Child permanency hearings
  • Essential Family Court matters
  • Plea and sentencing proceedings for defendants at liberty
  • Preliminary hearings in criminal cases for defendants being held in jail on felony complaints
  • Superior civil court appearances where at least one party is self-represented
  • Arraignments of defendants issued desk appearance tickets
  • A limited number of bench trials in civil and criminal matters
  • Small claims filed prior to April 1, 2020
  • Grand jury proceedings will commence on July 13, 2020

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.

Matters that will continue to be held virtually and heard by the assigned judge include: non-essential matters; criminal proceedings (except as noted); juvenile delinquency proceedings; adoptions; eviction matters in which all parties are represented by counsel; mental hygiene law proceedings pertaining to a hospitalized adult; and mediation/alternative dispute resolution.

During phase four, non-judicial staffing levels will continue to increase – but not exceed 80 percent – to support necessary administrative court functions as well as to provide support for the increase in foot traffic in the courthouse. Non-reporting court staff will continue to work 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.

Temperature Checks

The Office of Court Administration issued a memorandum today announcing that all visitors of state courthouses will be required to submit to temperature screening and questioning upon entry and prior to go through the usual security screening. This requirement includes all lawyers, parties, witnesses, spectators, law enforcement officers, prisoners, vendors and all other non-court system staff.

A uniformed officer will take the visitor’s temperature with an infrared thermometer without physical contact with the visitor. The officer will ask whether in the last 14 days you have had a fever, cough, shortness of breath or any flu-like symptoms; have tested positive for COVID-19 or been in close contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19; or if you’ve returned from travel abroad or from a state covered by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s travel quarantine order.

If the visitor’s temperature is under 100 and answers no to the questions, they may then proceed to the standard security check. If the visitor’s temperature is over 100 or answers yes to any of the questions, additional information will be taken and then they will be asked to leave immediately. A log of these yes screenings will be maintained by the court.

Personnel administering the COVID-19 screenings will be wearing appropriate personal protective equipment, including a face mask, face shield and disposable gloves.

COVID-19 Webinars

Wednesday, July 1 – The Attorney Disciplinary Process in the Time of the Pandemic: The Four Departments Speak.

Thursday, July 9 – The Future of Jury Trials: How the Coronavirus Epidemic May Change Online and In-Person Trials and Jury Selection.

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.

Smile! You are being recorded. Virtual meeting platforms like Zoom, Webex and Skype have become essential to the practice of law, for everything from meeting with clients, negotiating with opposing counsel and arguing motions. They also may be discoverable in litigation and investigations.

 

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