What the Omicron Variant Means for New York’s Courts

By Brandon Vogel

November 29, 2021

What the Omicron Variant Means for New York’s Courts


By Brandon Vogel

Good afternoon Members,

In her biweekly address, Chief Judge Janet DiFiore said that the courts are aware of the new omicron variant. The courts are prepared to make any and all necessary and appropriate adjustments based on the science and guidance as explained and set forth by public health officials.

The courts have been able to schedule and conduct an increased number of in-person jury and bench trials in courthouses across the state. DiFiore noted the number of cases that have been resolved by verdict, settlement or plea has increased quite significantly.

“This, of course, confirms what we already know: our ability to set firm trial dates is one of the most powerful tools at our disposal to move cases and reduce backlogs,” said DiFiore.

Equal justice

On Nov. 17, the courts issued the “Equal Justice in the New York State Courts: Year in Review Report” and emailed copies to “every member of the court family.” DiFiore said the purpose was to make everyone aware of the tremendous amount of progress that has been made over the last year to implement the recommendations in Secretary Johnson’s Equal Justice Report of October 2020.

Reforms include:

  • A statewide policy of “zero tolerance” for racial bias and discrimination
  • Mandated comprehensive racial bias training for all judges and nonjudicial staff
  • A new mission statement for the Unified Court System that incorporates principles of equity, diversity and inclusion.

Judge DiFiore commended Deputy Chief Administrative Judge Edwina Mendelson for her leadership of the day-to-day efforts to advance equal justice in the courts, and retired Court of Appeals Judge Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick, the independent monitor, for her continued evaluation and review of the courts’ equal justice work.

“We have a long way to go to meet our equal justice goals, but I am encouraged, and I am energized, by the commitment and progress documented in our Year in Review Report,” said DiFiore.

Reimagining the courts

The Commission to Reimagine the Future of New York’s Courts issued new reports from its Working Groups on “Appellate Practice,” and “Technology.”

The Working Group on Appellate Practice, chaired by Rolando Acosta, presiding justice of the Appellate Division, First Department, issued its second report on improving the efficiency and quality of the appellate justice services, a report that draws on the lessons learned from the successful transition of the four departments of the Appellate Division to a virtual model early on in the pandemic.

The report’s principal recommendation is the creation of a comprehensive, integrated e-filing system, extending from the inception of a case to the appellate process, that would allow lawyers and litigants to retrieve previously filed documents in order to seamlessly compile the record on appeal.

The Technology Working Group, co-chaired by Executive Committee member Mark Berman and Sharon Porcellio, issued its second report with recommendations on how to use technology to improve court operations and services in the almost 1,300 town and village justice courts across the state.

“Under the leadership of Chair Hank Greenberg (former NYSBA President), the commission has done an absolutely magnificent job of supporting our court system’s efforts to modernize the delivery of justice, both during the public health crisis, and beyond,” said DiFiore.”

Upcoming CLE Webinars

Tuesday, November 30 – Probate and Administration of Estates 2021

Tuesday, November 30  – How To Read A Property Insurance Policy (and Actually Understand It) – Video Replay

Tuesday, November 30  – Using The One-Shot Provision Of Article-81: Preserving Rights & Resources

Latest NYSBA.ORG News

We are adding interesting new content each day to our website.

LGBTQ Law Section Chair Christopher Riano has been named to the NYSBA Executive Committee.

Associate Justice Shirley Troutman of the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, has been nominated by Gov. Kathy Hochul to become a judge on the Court of Appeals. “Justice Troutman brings to the Court of Appeals invaluable experience as a prosecutor, trial court judge and appellate justice,” said T. Andrew Brown, president of the New York State Bar Association.

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