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Chief Judge DiFiore Confirms in a Recent On-Line Message, that New York Courts are Actively Addressing Issues Related to the Coronavirus Pandemic

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  • Posted on: Apr 24 2020

In an April 20, 2020 on-line video message appearing on the New York Court System website (https://www.nycourts.gov/), Chief Judge DiFiore explained the court system’s efforts to “not only to keep our courts up and running but to gradually and safely expand access to justice for litigants and lawyers across the state.”

Judge Fiore reported that as of Monday April 13, 2020, the scope of temporary virtual courts was expanded beyond “essential” and “emergency” matters to enable “judges and staff to get back to work on their pending caseloads of tort, commercial, matrimonial, trusts and estates, criminal, family and other important cases.”  Thus, Judges and staff are scheduling and conferencing cases by skype or telephone and, by so doing, are “resolving outstanding issues, addressing discovery disputes and facilitating a significant number of settlements.”  Impressively, in the first week of expanded virtual operations, Judges and professional staff have:

  • Conferenced and heard nearly 8,000 matters; 
  • Settled or disposed of over 2,600 cases, a third of all matters heard; and 
  • Issued over 1,400 written decisions on motions and other undecided matters, taking advantage of this period to clear our existing backlog of undecided motions. 

The Chief Judge has committed to “continue to evaluate and make necessary adjustments to our virtual court model” to “carefully expand virtual access, keeping in mind the special challenges faced by the self-represented and those lacking the technology to participate in a virtual forum.”  The long-term goal, however, is to return to normal operations when “possible and appropriate.”

It was noted that the State’s appellate courts “have gone virtual,” and that the Second Department has already presided over virtual arguments.  The other Departments and the Court of Appeals are scheduling or planning such arguments in upcoming sessions.

In addition, Court of Appeals Judge Michael Garcia was appointed to lead a “working group” to address the administration of the September bar examination and/or to address contingencies in the event that a bar examination is not feasible.  Such contingencies may include providing “temporary authorization for qualified candidates to engage in the limited practice of law.”  The working group “is also considering possible dispensations with regard to law school instructional requirements and the bar admissions process.”  All such proposals will be considered by the Court of Appeals in the near future and details will be announced.

The Court of Appeals is taking such steps as are necessary to keep the administration of justice moving in a forward direction.  This Blog will continue to monitor and report on the New York Court System’s response to the issues created by the Coronavirus Pandemic.

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