Nearly 2,000 Jurors Report for Duty, New Responsibilities for Court Officers

By Christian Nolan

Nearly 2,000 Jurors Report for Duty, New Responsibilities for Court Officers

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Good afternoon Members,

During her weekly coronavirus update, Chief Judge Janet DiFiore said nearly two thousand New Yorkers reported for jury service last week statewide.

In the first week of a limited return of in-person jury trials, New York City saw five cases tried to verdict, three trials are still in progress and 15 other cases ended up with settlements or plea bargains. One case was adjourned to next month after jury selection and another was dismissed.

Outside New York City, four cases were tried to verdict, six trials are still in progress, nine others resulted in settlements or plea bargains and several others were converted to bench trials or adjourned.

For this coming week, DiFiore said there are 28 jury trials scheduled statewide, fewer than last week due to the Passover and Easter holidays.

“I want to thank our administrative judges, trial judges and professional staff for their leadership and hard work to make sure that our facilities were ready for the safe return of jurors, attorneys and witnesses,” said DiFiore. “I also want to take a moment to publicly thank and recognize the nearly two thousand New Yorkers who reported for jury service last week, honoring their civic responsibility and sending the clear message that they are ready to see our courts functioning as normally as possible and are confident in our ability to prioritize and safeguard their health and safety.”

While DiFiore said she was pleased at the restart of in-person jury trials, she also wanted to note the success of their virtual court proceedings last week as nearly 1,300 virtual bench trials and hearings commenced; judges and staff remotely conferenced almost 24,000 matters; settled or disposed of nearly 5,700 of those matters; and issued over 2,400 written decisions on motions and other undecided matters.

New Court Officer Initiatives

DiFiore devoted a large portion of her update today to discuss initiatives to bolster the trust between state court officers and their communities.

First, DiFiore announced that the court system’s Department of Public Safety has entered a partnership with the NYPD’s Community Affairs Bureau that will enable state court officers to engage in outreach programs with community leaders, civic organizations, and other concerned citizens. The goal is for the court system to learn about community concerns, open lines of communication, educate the community about the work of the courts and develop positive relationships to help resolve problems and concerns when they arise.

According to DiFiore, the collaboration with the NYPD is the first step in the court system’s plan to build a statewide “Court Officer Community Affairs Program” in which the court officers will engage in a broad range of virtual and in-person outreach efforts. This will include community listening sessions, interaction with schools, clergy and youth organizations, participation in state and county fairs, and social media outreach.
By fall, DiFiore said she expects to have a robust court officer community affairs structure in place statewide. Also, this fall, she expects to train and appoint “community affairs officers” who will be stationed at information desks in courthouse lobbies to assist members of the public, address complaints and concerns, and provide basic help and information to court users.

By the end of April, court officers will wear nameplates on their uniforms while on duty, DiFiore said.

“Our court officers serve as the public face of our court system and are often the first individuals the public encounters upon entering our facilities,” said DiFiore. “Wearing a nametag, something the NYPD has done since the early 70s, is a simple way to foster an environment of trust and accountability. It is human nature to want to put a name to a face when interacting with people we don’t know and being able to address a court officer by his or her name sends an important and humanizing message.”

Lastly, starting in June, court officers will be provided mandatory training to address issues of implicit bias, cultural awareness and basic tenets of customer service. This training program has been specifically developed for New York State court officers.

Gov. Signs POA Chapter Amendment

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has signed the much-anticipated chapter amendment legislation as part of the new power of attorney law that goes into effect June 13.

Cuomo, who signed the chapter amendment bill March 25, negotiated the agreement with lawmakers when signing the original New York State Bar Association-advanced power of attorney bill in December.

The chapter amendment, considered a compromise because it created an additional burden on the execution of the power of attorney, requires that two disinterested witnesses sign the power of attorney form.

The chapter amendment also exempts the state Department of Health, including social services districts in the administration of the Medicaid program or other public health insurance programs, from the requirement that third parties honor or reject a statutory short form power of attorney within ten business days.

Click here for more information on the chapter amendment as part of the new power of attorney law.

COVID-19 Webinars

Tuesday, March 30 – Virtual Landlord Tenant Litigation and the EEFPA.

Wednesday, March 31 – Virtual Practice of Law in the Surrogate’s Court: Practice Pitfalls and Insider Tips.

Wednesday, April 14 – Technology and Ethics: What Every Lawyer Should Know.

Monday, April 19 – Making an Initial Appearance in a NY Criminal Case: Remote and In-Person.

Latest NYSBA.ORG Coronavirus News

We are adding new content each day to our website related to the coronavirus public health emergency and its impact on the legal community.

When the pandemic began a year ago, life was turned upside down and lawyers were no exception. They were wondering how they would pay the bills, pay their staff, or work exclusively from home. To cope, there was a need to confidentially discuss these concerns with their peers. And from that thought NYSBA’s Lawyer-to-Lawyer Wellness Roundtable was born.

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

Get caught up on all the latest appearances of NYSBA in the news, including President Scott M. Karson’s comments in various publications regarding the sudden retirement of Court of Appeals Associate Judge Paul G. Feinman.

We also have part two of David Ferstendig’s article analyzing the amendments to the Uniform Rules for the Trial Courts.

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