Jury Trials Return to Pre-Pandemic Levels

By Brandon Vogel

Jury Trials Return to Pre-Pandemic Levels

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Chief Judge Janet DiFiore announced today, in her biweekly update, that 200 jury trials were scheduled in our courts statewide, in addition to hundreds of nonjury bench trials — numbers not seen since before the pandemic.

She acknowledged Deputy Chief Administrative Judges, Deborah Kaplan in New York City, and Norman St. George outside the City, for working tirelessly and creatively with administrative judges to find ways to reorganize and reshuffle operations and responsibly maximize the trial capacity in our buildings.

Afghanistan

DiFiore also noted the “alarming media reports of the desperate plight of more than 270 Afghan women judges who lost their judicial positions after the Taliban’s takeover.” Unable to leave Afghanistan, these women are now living in hiding, living under fear of death for having ruled against men in divorce and custody cases and for having sentenced hundreds of men to prison in cases involving assault, kidnapping, rape and murder of women — men who reportedly have now been released from prison by the Taliban, leaving these women judges in grave danger.

At the recommendation of Court of Appeals Judge Madeline Singas, DiFiore reached out to the National Center for State Courts and the Conference of Chief Justices to discuss what judicial leaders could do to help.

The courts recently drafted a resolution entitled “Resolution In Support of Assisting the Resettlement of Afghanistan’s Women Judges and Other Vulnerable Justice System Refugees,” which has been submitted to the Department of State, expressing unqualified support and solidarity for these courageous jurists and judicial officers who have risked their lives over the last 20 years to enforce the human rights of women and girls living in Afghanistan.

The resolution urges state court systems to cooperate with the State Department to identify employment opportunities for Afghan women judges and justice system refugees here in the U.S., and encourages the National Center for State Courts to establish an “Afghan Justice Sector Clearinghouse” to facilitate their resettlement.

She also commended the State Bar Association for last week’s CLE program, attended by over 200 attorneys, to raise awareness and train pro bono lawyers to participate in Afghan evacuation and resettlement.

“We hope and believe that the unqualified support of our nation’s Chief Justices will lend urgency and momentum to the efforts that are underway to assist at-risk Afghan women judges,” said DiFiore.  “As we move forward, it is incumbent upon our entire legal community to assist these refugees and support their transition to appropriate law-related employment commensurate with their professional qualifications, skills and training. A most worthy effort, and the least that we can do for our international colleagues who risked everything to ensure equal justice and uphold the rule of law in Afghanistan.”

Year in Review

DiFiore said that the “Year in Review Report” will be issued later this week, documenting the significant progress the courts have made to implement Secretary Johnson’s equal justice recommendations and begin the transformation of the court system into a model of fairness, equity and inclusion. The report catalogues the reforms that have already been implemented as well as many more that are underway or in the planning stages.

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