State Court System To Begin Virtual Bench Trials, Residential Eviction Moratorium Extended

By Christian Nolan

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Good afternoon Members,

In her weekly update today, Chief Judge Janet DiFiore said the state court system will begin a limited number of virtual bench trials and hearings tomorrow in matrimonial matters in the Supreme Court in Kings, New York, Richmond, Westchester and Ontario Counties.

The virtual trials and hearings will be conducted using the Microsoft Teams platform and the New York State Electronic Filing System (NYSCEF), which will allow lawyers and litigants to upload in advance witness and evidence lists, and in real time, documents that can be marked for identification and moved into evidence by the judge.

During the virtual trials and hearings, documents and evidence will be shared on-screen and remain visible to the attorneys, parties and witnesses participating in the proceedings.

“We will be closely monitoring the progress of this pilot program, in anticipation of expanding virtual trials and hearings to other courts and case types across the state,” said DiFiore.

With regard to the in-person jury trial pilot program outside New York City, DiFiore said ten trials have been completed, five are in progress, 24 resulted in settlements or plea agreements, and seven were adjourned. This week, she said there are five jury trials scheduled – three criminal and two civil – in Oneida, Saratoga, Suffolk, Tompkins and Westchester Counties.

The only significant incident to occur so far, DiFiore explained, was at a Suffolk County trial where the defendant’s wife tested positive for COVID-19 last week, prompting the suspension of the trial to allow for quarantining and contact tracing among the affected individuals.

DiFiore also announced today that there will be a Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Compliance Coordinator designated in all state courthouses. They will be responsible for making sure that there is adequate PPE supplies on hand, that PPE is properly distributed and made available as needed, and that all of the judges and professional staff are properly wearing and using PPE, including face masks.

Residential Eviction Moratorium

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the state’s Tenant Safe Harbor Act will be extended until Jan. 1, 2021 to protect residential tenants from eviction if they are suffering financial hardship during the coronavirus pandemic. The executive order also extends protections against eviction warrants that existed prior to the start of the pandemic.

Cuomo first announced a state moratorium on residential and commercial evictions on March 20 to ensure no tenant was evicted during the peak of the pandemic. Cuomo signed the Tenant Safe Harbor Act on June 30, which became effective immediately 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.

Earlier this month, the state’s moratorium on coronavirus-related commercial evictions and foreclosures was also extended by Cuomo through executive order until Oct. 20. This measure extends protections already in place for commercial tenants and mortgagors in recognition of the financial toll the pandemic has taken on business owners, including retail establishments and restaurants. The extension of this protection, Cuomo said, gives commercial tenants and mortgagors additional time to get back on their feet and catch up on rent or their mortgage, or to renegotiate their lease terms to avoid foreclosure moving forward.

COVID-19 Webinars

Wednesday, Sept. 30 – Family Law Online Trials: Tips For Success.

Friday, Oct. 2 – Pre- and Post-Trial Motions: Including Motions in Limine – NYSBA Trial Academy Virtual Conference.

Monday, Oct. 5 – Nursing Home Reform: The COVID Crisis and Regulations, Oversight and the Economics of Nursing Homes.

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.

On the latest episode of the Miranda Warnings podcast today, DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association and former federal prosecutor, discusses the NFL’s response to COVID-19, how he encourages players to get involved in the political process and much more.

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

NYSBA President Scott M. Karson issued the following statement today regarding President Donald Trump’s recent executive order barring federal agencies, branches of the armed forces, and federal contractors from conducting diversity and inclusion training. Karson described the new policy as “unconstitutional and abhorrent.”

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