Good afternoon Members,
Chief Judge Janet DiFiore said in her weekly coronavirus update today that state court system judges and justices will become eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccination beginning Wednesday, March 17 as part of the allowed “public facing essential government officials and employees.”
“While many judges have already been vaccinated, making the vaccine available to all of our judges will certainly expedite our ability to safely expand in-person operations and eventually achieve our goal of resuming a full range of in-person court operations, including jury trials,” said DiFiore. “And, of course, this will allow us to get back to some form of normalcy in our own personal lives as well, which is so important to our mental health and well-being.”
DiFiore noted that the COVID-19 metrics have improved since the increase around the holidays, and the vaccination campaign is expanding to reach more and more people in New York State. As a result, the court system is continuing with its plans to incrementally expand in-person operations and restart a limited number of civil and criminal jury trials on Monday, March 22.
The state court system will continue to prioritize and enforce social distancing, the use of personal protective equipment, a strict cleaning regimen, and an environment where jurors, lawyers, litigants, witnesses, judges, staff and all other participants feel comfortable and confident about their safety at the courthouses, DiFiore explained.
“Now, to be clear, our commitment to expanding in-person services and restarting jury trials does not mean that we have any intention of returning to the kind of courthouse density that existed before the arrival of COVID-19,” said DiFiore. “First of all, we will be moving forward gradually, and second, we will be moving into a new and presumably better normal, defined by our increased reliance on technology options, such as videoconferencing and e-filing, that will enable us to limit courthouse traffic while providing efficient access to our services.”
One Year Since Court Shutdown
During her weekly coronavirus address, DiFiore also reflected on the past year, as tomorrow, March 16, marks the one-year anniversary of when the court system temporarily postponed non-emergency, non-essential in-person functions in order to limit courthouse traffic and stem the spread of the virus.
“That very same week, we began our remarkable journey of reinventing ourselves from a massive, complex, in-person operating model into a functioning virtual model capable of using remote technology to provide court access in the broadest possible range of cases,” said DiFiore. “An incredible achievement that was accomplished in record time through the commitment, dedication and ingenuity of our judges and professional staff, our leadership team, and our Division of Technology professionals.”
Time Off for Vaccine
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has signed legislation granting public and private employees time off to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. Under this new law, employees will be granted up to four hours of excused leave per injection that will not be charged against any other leave the employee has earned or accrued.
The new law also provides that no employer shall retaliate against any employee for exercising his or her right to request leave to get vaccinated. The legislation becomes effective immediately.
Tuesday, March 16 – Taking and Handling Virtual Depositions.
Wednesday, March 24 – Arbitration and Mediation 2021: Best Practices Working Through and Beyond COVID-19.
Tuesday, March 30 – Virtual Landlord Tenant Litigation and the EEFPA.
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