State Court System To Require Vaccination and COVID-19 Testing
Good evening Members,
Without providing any further details, Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, during her coronavirus update today, announced that all of the approximately 15,600 state court system employees will be required to get vaccinated.
DiFiore hinted at this outcome in her previous update Aug. 9 and with the Food and Drug Administration granting full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine today, she wasted little time in announcing that the court system would now require its employees to be vaccinated.
She said “many public and private employers have announced their intention to mandate the vaccination of their workforces, and now, after much discussion and deliberation, we intend to do the same.”
While details have not yet been revealed on the rollout of the vaccination requirement, DiFiore did provide plans today for COVID-19 testing of the court system’s unvaccinated employees. Beginning Sept. 7, mandatory weekly COVID-19 testing will be required for those judges and non-judicial employees who have not yet enrolled in the court system’s mask policy program and submitted proof of their vaccinated status.
They must submit proof each week that they have taken a rapid or PCR COVID-19 test from a licensed testing facility. Proof that such a test was administered must be promptly uploaded to the court system’s Mandatory Testing Program SharePoint site. Supervisors will work with employees to coordinate scheduled testing each week, and employees will be granted excused leave for the purpose of getting tested. Employees who do not submit proof of testing will not be permitted to report to work and must charge their time as annual or compensatory leave. As always, anyone who tests positive must follow the most current reporting and quarantine protocols.
Judges and court staff who have been vaccinated – and who have enrolled in the program certifying their vaccinated status – will not have to undergo COVID-19 testing. They also can enter and remain in all public areas of state court facilities without wearing a mask.
“I think you know that we have worked hard to craft and implement the very best policies and protocols to both protect you and allow us to safely carry out our mission of providing access to justice for all New Yorkers,” said DiFiore. “It is our number one priority that you and your families, and lawyers and litigants and their families, remain safe, healthy and out of harm’s way as we go about our important work.”
Felony Gun Backlog
DiFiore also announced that last week the state court system launched a new program in the Criminal Court and the Supreme Court in New York City targeting a backlog of felony gun possession cases.
She said the backlog was created by a citywide increase in gun arrests and pandemic-related constraints on criminal court operations. In collaboration with the New York City District Attorneys’ Offices and other stakeholders, including the Citizens Crime Commission, the court system has developed a multi-prong initiative to expedite the handling and resolution of felony cases involving a top charge of criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree.
Key elements of this initiative include: increasing the number of grand juries that are sitting at any given time, the designation of teams of judges in each borough who will work together to expedite pretrial hearings and preside over pleas and trials, and the prioritization and fast-tracking of the resolution of the oldest gun possession cases pending throughout the city.
Judge George Grasso, the court system’s new administrative judge for Criminal Matters in Queens Supreme Court, will oversee the daily operation of this initiative. DiFiore said he will work closely with all the assigned judges and their staffs, coordinate with justice partners and monitor the progress of these serious cases to ensure that they are being prioritized, managed and resolved efficiently and fairly.
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