Some Virtual Court Proceedings To Become Permanent

By Christian Nolan

Some Virtual Court Proceedings To Become Permanent

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Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, during her weekly coronavirus update today, said that as the state court system moves forward into a “new and better normal” many types of virtual proceedings and services will become “permanent features” of court operations even after the pandemic subsides.

DiFiore did not specify yet what types of proceedings would likely become permanent.

“Fifteen months after COVID-19 compelled us to transform court operations overnight, virtual proceedings are no longer an ‘experiment’ but have proven to be an effective method of moving cases closer to resolution while ensuring that litigants and lawyers can have their matters heard in a convenient, timely and cost-effective manner,” said DiFiore.

DiFiore said that as part of their commitment to incorporate virtual services, the court system is providing targeted technology training to judges and court staff on a regular basis, both at the local and statewide levels.

Throughout the month of May and into June, the Office of Court Administration’s Division of Technology and Court Research and the Judicial Institute are presenting a live technology training series each Wednesday from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. that is open to all judges and court staff.

Last week, there were well over 1,100 online bench trials and hearings and judges and staff remotely conferenced more than 24,300 matters; settled or disposed of more than 5,800 of those matters; and issued more than 2,200 written decisions on motions and other undecided matters, according to DiFiore.

Pilot Program to Close Digital Divide

This week in the Third Judicial District, which is led by Administrative Judge Gerald Connelly, the court system is launching a pilot program enabling Albany-area residents who lack home computers or reliable internet service to utilize safe and secure sites in their neighborhoods where they can fully participate in virtual court proceedings, e-file court documents, and connect with legal service and pro bono attorneys.

The Third Judicial District’s “Community Court Access” program will start with two sites, one in the Pine Hills neighborhood of Albany in partnership with the Albany Public Library, and a second in the Town of Coeymans, in partnership with the Coeymans Riverview Missionary Baptist Church and with generous funding support from the Grace Baptist Church and Grace Development Corporation in Mount Vernon.

“These community access sites are equipped with modern video equipment, scanners and all of the technology necessary to fully participate in virtual court proceedings and e-file court documents,” said DiFiore. “Private space is available for court users to prepare documents and a trained court employee or community liaison is on site to provide technical guidance and assistance. Planning is underway to expand this promising and valuable program to rural locations in Greene and Schoharie counties.

Moratorium on Evictions Extended

Last week, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed an extension of the COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2020 and the COVID-19 Emergency Protect Our Small Businesses Act. The legislation extends protections prohibiting residential and commercial evictions, foreclosure proceedings, credit discrimination and negative credit reporting related to the COVID-19 pandemic until Aug. 31.

Cuomo first announced a state moratorium on residential and commercial evictions on March 20, 2020 to ensure no tenant was evicted during the height of the public health emergency. The governor also signed the Tenant Safe Harbor Act on June 30, 2020, as well as additional legislation providing financial assistance to residential renters and landlords. Additionally, previous executive orders have prohibited charges or fees for late rent payments, and tenants facing financial hardship can still use their security deposit as payment and repay their security deposit over time.

COVID-19 Webinars

Tuesday, May 11 – Post-COVID Financial and Accounting Efficiencies.

Thursday, May 13 – #Networked: Women Lawyers Build Connections in COVID-19.

Monday, May 17 – Starting a Solo Practice in New York 2021 Part 2: Operations, Technology and Risk Management.

Tuesday, May 18 – Managing Your Law Firm Post-Pandemic: Practical Considerations for Human Resources.

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