The New York State Unified Court System has announced that beginning next week in-person appearances and staffing levels in all 57 counties outside of New York City will be scaled back due to the resurgence of coronavirus cases statewide.
While court officials are saying it is “not a shutdown,” all in-person appearances are strongly being encouraged to be held virtually.
“Because of the uptick statewide and particularly in the Erie County area, we are scaling back personnel and in-person appearances,” said Lucian Chalfen, spokesman for the Office of Court Administration. “Courts will reduce staffing to anywhere from 25% to 40% depending on needs. Some courts out of the city were operating at twice that capacity.”
Courthouses across the state have been reporting COVID-19 exposures that have already led to some additional shutdowns of in-person operations in the New York City area. This week, the criminal Supreme Courts in Brooklyn and Queens suspended all in-person appearances after numerous court staff tested positive for COVID-19. Officials in Queens said only in-person appearances deemed “absolutely necessary” could occur.
Additionally, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Ellen Biben and New York State Court Officer Lt. Robert Gelormino tested positive for the virus last week.
Chief Judge Janet DiFiore said earlier in the week that the court system had developed contingency plans for reduced in-person staffing levels and scaled-back operations in all of their courthouses. The state court system first announced in mid-November that all new jury trials and grand juries would be suspended due to the resurgence of coronavirus in areas throughout the state.
The state court system continues to report on its website the numerous cases of court employees and visitors at courthouses around the state testing positive for coronavirus.
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NYSBA’s Task Force on Racial Injustice and Police Reform will hold its third in a series of virtual public forums at 6 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 7. The forum will provide members of the law enforcement community with an opportunity to discuss the unique challenges they face amid the debate over racial injustice and police reform. Rochester Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan, the first woman to hold that post, will be the keynote speaker. Click here for more information, including how you can register to attend.