Good evening Members,
During her weekly Monday update, Chief Judge Janet DiFiore responded to a question she said has caused much debate among public officials – how quickly the New York State Unified Court System should return to scheduling and hearing in-person matters, particularly in New York City.
“I will say this again and again and again. We are absolutely committed to restoring in-person operations across our court system,” said DiFiore. “And we will continue to do so in a careful and deliberate manner and at a safe and appropriate pace, dictated by all of the internal considerations and other factors that inform our operational decisions. We will not be swayed by the different interests that are seeking to either rush, or delay, our return to in-person operations.”
DiFiore said the number one priority will always be the health and safety of the court family and of the lawyers, litigants, agency partners and countless members of the public who file into courthouses on a daily basis.
“And one more thing I’d like to make crystal clear. The New York State Unified Court System has never stopped functioning. Not for a day, not for an hour, not for a minute,” said DiFiore. “Since the beginning of this pandemic, notwithstanding the chaos, the stress, the anxiety and the tragedy, our judges and staff have heard over 160,000 essential and emergency matters without interruption, including tens of thousands of criminal arraignments and urgent, time-sensitive family court matters, the vast majority of which were heard in our virtual courts which started up in late March.”
Specifically, DiFiore said the court system has heard over 151,000 non-essential matters between April 13 and July 27. She said the system has settled or disposed of 53,570 matters and issued over 26,500 written decisions on motions and other undecided matters.
“While our judges and professional staff don’t need a ‘thank you’ for doing their jobs, they do deserve recognition for their productivity, their professionalism and their steadfast commitment to serving the public during these very challenging months,” DiFiore said.
DiFiore also noted that this week marks the launch in the civil courts of the Virtual Summary Trial program in the Bronx, Queens and Richmond counties in order to tackle the large inventory of tort cases. Deputy Chief Administrative Judge George Silver is overseeing the program.
DiFiore said that she’s pleased that nearly half of the tort cases referred to virtual ADR have resulted in settlements. For the other half, the parties will be given the opportunity to consent to a one-day summary bench trial with relaxed rules of evidence, and the lawyers and litigants will be given the option of appearing virtually or in-person.
Child Victims Act Deadline Extended
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo today signed legislation extending the look back window for victims to file claims under the Child Victims Act regardless of when or how long ago the alleged abuse occurred.
On May 8, due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, Cuomo issued an executive order extending the window until Jan. 14, 2021. The legislation signed today extends the special filing period by a full year and claims can now be filed under the Child Victims Act until Aug. 14, 2021.
“The Child Victims Act brought a long-needed pathway to justice for people who were abused, and helps right wrongs that went unacknowledged and unpunished for far too long and we cannot let this pandemic limit the ability for survivors to have their day in court,” Cuomo said. “As New York continues to reopen and recover from a public health crisis, extending the look back window is the right thing to do and will help ensure that abusers and those who enabled them are held accountable.”
The Child Victims Act:
- Increases the amount of time during which perpetrators of these crimes may be held criminally accountable.
- Allows victims of these crimes to commence a civil lawsuit at any time before they reach 55 years of age.
- Provides survivors seeking to file actions against public and private institutions for previously time-barred claims a new opportunity for their day in court by opening a one-year window, now extended to two years, for them to commence their civil action.
- Eliminates the need to file a notice of claim for sexual offenses committed against a minor.
- Requires judicial training with respect to crimes involving the sexual abuse of minors.
- Authorizes the Office of Court Administration to promulgate rules and regulations for the timely adjudication of revived actions.
The New York State Bar Association is seeking a few good volunteers to help New Yorkers with housing issues connected to the COVID-19 public health crisis.
A free 2.0 MCLE credit CLE training is available. Volunteers, once they are trained, will be referred to legal service providers with housing and landlord-tenant pro bono programs.
For more information and to sign up, please visit: https://nysba.joinpaladin.com/nysba/opportunities/assist-individuals-in-need-with-housing-issues/.
Tuesday, Aug. 4 – How to Create a Realistic and Effective Marketing Plan Despite COVID-19.
Tuesday, Aug. 4 – COVID-19 and the Upstate Courts: A Discussion with Judge Caruso.
Wednesday, Aug. 5 – International Perspectives on COVID-Related Disputes.
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 coverage of a discussion with Deputy Chief Administrative Judge George Silver about establishing a functioning court system amidst a global pandemic.
We also have information on how to better connect with your clients during the coronavirus pandemic.