Mask Mandate To Continue at State Courthouses

By Christian Nolan

Mask Mandate To Continue at State Courthouses

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Good evening Members,

As state courthouses returned to full staffing today, Chief Judge Janet DiFiore and Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks said everyone entering must still wear face masks, at least for the time being.

“We are doing so out of an abundance of caution and in order to carefully monitor and evaluate the impact of increased traffic in our courthouses following today’s return to full staffing levels,” said DiFiore during her weekly coronavirus update today. “We will revisit our decision regarding face masks once we acquire more data and experience.”

In total today, all 16,000 members of the state’s judiciary returned to full staffing in every courthouse and other court facilities throughout New York. This comes fifteen months after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the court system to shift to video-linked virtual courtrooms for most proceedings and drastically reduced courthouse activity.

“Our return to full staffing is a very positive development, one that lawyers and litigants have been eagerly awaiting,” said DiFiore. “And that’s because we all know, understand and appreciate that most court proceedings, for reasons including access to justice or court operations, are most appropriately heard in-person.”

However, DiFiore cautioned that today was not a return to “business as usual.” She said the court system will continue to limit the number of people present in its buildings at any given time primarily through the continued use of virtual technology, but also by continuing the staggered scheduling of court appearances, court calendars and courtroom usage.

In addition to the face masks, DiFiore said all judges, staff, lawyers, litigants, justice partners and members of the public who enter state courthouses must continue to follow all the safety measures and protocols implemented including: COVID-19 screening and temperature checks, social distancing, strict cleaning and sanitizing.

Combating Elder Abuse

The state court system has also announced the new “Elder Justice Resource Guide,” which is the product of a collaboration between its Office for Justice Initiatives, led by Deputy Chief Administrative Judge Edwina Mendelson, and the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Center for Elder Justice at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale, which is led by Joy Solomon, its director and managing attorney.

The guide’s key feature is an interactive “Elder Abuse Directory Map” that displays comprehensive contact information for the many organizations that provide critical services to older adults in all 13 judicial districts statewide. The guide also contains a “Bench Book” for judges and staff that provides helpful tips and information for interacting effectively with older adults, as well as identifying and responding to elder abuse and neglect; understanding cognitive impairment and other aging-related issues; relevant statutes and rules; benefits and entitlements available to meet the special needs of older adults; and best practices for courtroom access for elderly people with special needs, including a description of New York’s first “Elder-Friendly Courtroom,” which was created in New York County Supreme Court to enable older adults to participate as fully as possible in court proceedings.

DiFiore noted that one in 10 people over the age of 60 having suffered some form of verbal, physical or sexual abuse or financial exploitation, and studies have shown that elder abuse is significantly underreported. However, she said the pandemic has led to an increase in reports of elder abuse nationally.

The chief judge noted that the guide was just the first of many planned initiatives to combat elder abuse and neglect, and to provide court personnel, legal professionals and members of the public with helpful information about available services to assist older adults in New York.

COVID-19 Webinars

Tuesday, May 25 – Post-Pandemic Life: Meeting the Needs of Women and Family Caregivers in the Global Legal Workplace.

Wednesday, June 2 – Big Data and False Claims Act Risk Due to COVID-19.

Friday, June 4 – Criminal Defense: Practice Tips, Ethics, Social Justice – The Pandemic & Beyond.

Latest NYSBA.ORG News

In addition to coronavirus updates, we are adding other interesting new content to our website.

NYSBA President-elect T. Andrew Brown penned a tribute to the Hon. Gerald Lebovits, who over the past 20 years and 150 issues of The Journal, wrote “The Legal Writer” column. Lebovits recently wrote his final column.

We also take a look at claims to surplus in tax lien foreclosures, an area of tax foreclosure law that is severely underexplored, writes Kelsey R. Ruszkowski, a litigation associate at Gibson, McAskill & Crosby in Buffalo.

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