Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Upstate courts starting to reopen

630 lawyers volunteered for Surrogate’s Court program

By: Bennett Loudon//June 2, 2020

Upstate courts starting to reopen

630 lawyers volunteered for Surrogate’s Court program

By: Bennett Loudon//June 2, 2020

Courts in the Seventh Judicial District will move into Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, New York State Chief Judge Janet DiFiore has announced.

Courts in the Fifth and Sixth Judicial District will move into Phase 2 also on Wednesday, followed on Friday by most of the counties in the Fourth Judicial District, DiFiore said in a video update released Monday afternoon.

“As we enter the month of June, it appears that New York is steadily recovering from the COVID pandemic and carefully emerging into our ‘new normal,’ guided by Gov. (Andrew) Cuomo’s regional, phased-in plan for the economic reopening of the state,” DiFiore said in the 10-minute recording.

Last week, judges, chambers staff and designated court personnel returned to work at their courthouses in the Capital District, Mid-Hudson and Long Island regions after those areas had met the seven metrics for Phase 1 reopening.

During the past two weeks, in-person courthouse operations have been restored in every region of the state outside New York City, she said.

“I am pleased to report that this process has gone smoothly. It is, clearly, a ‘new normal’ for all of us in the courts, a new normal defined by reduced courthouse traffic, personal distancing, face coverings and a host of operational and safety measures designed to prevent the spread of the virus,” DiFiore said.

New lawsuits can be filed with the state’s electronic filing system in regions that have reopened. In New York City, new cases are being started in the courts that use the electronic filing system.

Under Phase 2, most non-essential matters will continue to be handled virtually, with some exceptions allowed for in-person appearances at the court’s discretion, DiFiore said.

“Importantly, during Phase 2 we will begin to handle a limited number of essential matters in person, primarily in Family Court … We believe that this incremental approach to increasing in-person court operations will enable us to control the flow of people and mitigate the ongoing risk of COVID transmission,” she said.

New York City is the only region in the state that has not yet met the benchmarks for reopening. Cuomo has suggested that the region may be ready to reopen by June 8.

“As we progress toward fuller in-person court operations in New York City and across the state, we will employ all of the operational best practices and safety measures in our power to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” DiFiore said.

Those measures include: virtual technology to reduce courthouse traffic; staggered scheduling; COVID screening; personal distancing; facemasks and other PPE; sanitizing agents; regular cleaning; and acrylic barriers.

“We know that no single one of these measures is a silver bullet, but we do know that if we are disciplined, responsible and consistent in following all of the safety practices we implement, we will do our part to prevent a resurgence of the virus while continuing the critical work of the largest, busiest and most complex court system in the country,” DiFiore said.

DiFiore and her colleagues will attend the June session of the Court of Appeals in Albany.

“We will preside from a socially-distanced bench, and we will hear oral argument by lawyers appearing in person, with appropriate safety protocols in place and by lawyers appearing remotely by video conference,” she said.

The courtroom will be closed to the general public, but the oral argument can be viewed live on the court’s website.

DiFiore also said there has been an overwhelmingly positive response to a request for lawyers to volunteer to help provide free legal representation in Surrogate’s Courts for financially disadvantaged individuals and families who lost their loved ones as a result of the pandemic. So far, 630 lawyers have volunteered.

“There is a long road and a lot of hard work ahead of us. The only thing predictable about COVID-19 has been its unpredictability. Until we have a vaccine, or a better understanding of the virus, the smart approach, which we will continue to pursue, is to be prudent and incremental in expanding our in-person services,” DiFiore said.

[email protected] / (585) 232-2035

Case Digests

See all Case Digests

Law News

See All Law News


How Is My Site?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...