NY Holds Most Trials This Week Since Pandemic Started
Good evening Members,
More than 70 state civil and criminal jury trials are scheduled to begin this week across New York, the largest number since the beginning of the pandemic, said Chief Judge Janet DiFiore during her weekly coronavirus update today.
DiFiore said the court system continues to move ahead with its plans for all judges and court staff to return to their assigned courthouses on Monday, May 24, and that the transition will take place incrementally. Judicial districts outside New York City are operating at about 80% staffing, and courts in New York City are operating with staffing levels ranging from 50% to 75%.
“Those percentages will continue to increase with each passing week as our administrative judges and court managers work through all of the different safety and operational issues in order to reach full staffing levels in our courthouses,” said DiFiore. “Obviously, the physical return of our judges and professional staff will enable us to expand in‐court operations and services for lawyers and litigants and increase the number and types of matters that can be heard again in‐person, including, of course, jury trials and other court proceedings.”
DiFiore again reiterated that extensive safety measures would be maintained at the courthouses and that it was imperative to keep the number of lawyers, litigants and court users down to safe and manageable levels. As such, the courts will continue to rely on their virtual model to limit unnecessary personal appearances and still meet the broad demand for services.
Regarding the virtual courts, DiFiore said there were over 1,100 online bench trials and hearings last week, and that judges and staff remotely conferenced more than 24,500 matters, settled or disposed of more than 6,100 of those matters, and issued more than 2,100 written decisions on motions and other undecided matters.
“Our virtual model has truly been a remarkable ‘experiment,’ and we are most appreciative of the important work that our judges and staff have been doing to educate the public about virtual courts and help remove the barriers to justice that some New Yorkers have been challenged by,” said DiFiore.
When DiFiore was the elected district attorney of Westchester County, she said she established strong partnerships with faith leaders there.
“I did that because we know that very often the first people to whom community members turn for help and support when facing serious legal and personal crises, such as family violence, addiction, eviction, financial problems and other challenges, are their faith leaders,” said DiFiore.
So now court personnel are reaching out to faith leaders in districts statewide to foster access to justice by explaining the broad range of resources and services available to their congregants through the court system and other justice partners. She said administrative judges in various districts have been holding meetings with local clergy to answer questions and share information about resources.
Issues of concern from faith leaders have centered around the pandemic, such as housing and eviction matters, as well as how the court system is working to bridge the digital divide in the virtual courts.
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