DIFiore: Three-Foot Physical Distancing in Criminal Jury Trials Starts Today

By Brandon Vogel

February 14, 2022

DIFiore: Three-Foot Physical Distancing in Criminal Jury Trials Starts Today


By Brandon Vogel

Effective today, the courts are implementing three-foot physical distancing for participants in criminal jury trials statewide.

“The number of judges and court staff testing positive for COVID-19 has, thankfully, continued to plummet, enabling us, on the operational side of our house, to prioritize the restoration of in-person proceedings and services, including jury trials, and to put all of our focus on resuming full court operations, so that we can clear out our backlogs and return to the outstanding progress of the Excellence Initiative, when we were managing our dockets and resolving cases efficiently and expeditiously,” said Chief Judge Janet DiFiore.

Given the constitutional rights and interests at stake in criminal matters, including the right to a speedy trial for individuals accused of crimes, many of whom are now being detained while they wait for their day in court, “it is most important that we be able to schedule the number of jury trials actually needed to move our dockets as efficiently as possible in order to promptly adjudicate these important cases and clear away the large pandemic-related backlogs that have built up in many of our courts,” said DiFiore.

The courts will continue to enforce all of the established health and safety protocols that have worked to prevent the spread of the virus in court facilities, including screening and temperature checks, disciplined use of face masks and PPE, proper ventilation, and strict cleaning and sanitizing.

With the continued improvement of public health conditions, DiFiore hopes to soon ease physical distancing protocols in Family and Civil courts and to get back to scheduling a full and normal complement of jury trials, hearings and proceedings in those courts as well.

All members of the public entering court facilities must still wear face coverings. Judges and court staff will also continue to wear masks in all public areas of court facilities, including courtrooms, courthouse lobbies, elevators and other public hallways and spaces. Judges and staff who have not been vaccinated, due to a valid medical or religious exemption, are required to continue wearing face masks in all areas of the courthouse, including non-public areas.

State of the Judiciary

The 2022 State of Our Judiciary will be delivered virtually, this Wednesday, Feb. 16th, at 10 a.m. Equal justice is the theme of this year’s address that will be live streamed on the courts’ website.

It will begin with a tribute to judges and court staff for their hard work and dedication to courts during the pandemic, and for how the courts are now well- positioned to return to full-scale operations.

It also will recognize the enormous amount of work that has been done, and continues, in order to implement Secretary Jeh Johnson’s recommendations, including, literally, dozens of reforms aimed at correcting harmful policies and practices and eliminating barriers to equity and inclusion.

DiFiore also will describe renewed efforts, calling on partners in the legislative and executive branches to transform the inefficient trial court system into a simple, streamlined and equitable structure that eliminates systemic barriers to equity, and that works for the benefit of all the people we serve, regardless of who they are or where they come from in life.

Upcoming CLE Webinars

Wednesday, Feb. 16 – Thursday, Feb. 17 – February 2022 Bridging The Gap

Wednesday, Feb. 16  – NYC Fire Pension Provisions & Equalization Pitfalls In Divorce Settlements

Friday, Feb. 18  – NYS Implementation Of Family First Prevention Services Act (Part 1) – Qualified Residential Services Program

Latest NYSBA.ORG News

We are adding interesting new content each day to our website.

The New York State Bar Association today released its legislative priorities for the 2022 sessions in D.C. and Albany, covering a wide range of issues from crime prevention to legal aid for immigrants to policing reform and gender-based discrimination.

Economics teaches us that the law should not be used to attack litigation finance privacy but rather to protect it. This would allow judges and juries to decide cases on the merits rather than on the basis of how cases are funded.

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