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SUFFOLK COUNTY COURTS – Phase 4.1 Procedures

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  • Posted on: Aug 21 2020

On August 19, 2020, District Administrative Judge, Hon. Andrew A. Crecca, issued a Memorandum regarding the “Return to In-Person Operations in the 10th Judicial District, Suffolk County – Phase 4.1” (the “Memo”) [HERE].  According to the Memo, Phase 4.1 “builds upon our reopening efforts to date by providing for enhanced in-person operations in all courts throughout the District, the continued use of virtual technology where we have found it to be appropriate and preferred, and the commencement of civil and criminal jury trials.”

Consistent with the prior Phase, Phase 4.1 “no more than 50% of the courtrooms in a courthouse will be used for in person proceedings at the same time, and occupancy of every courtroom in the District will be kept at or below 25% of its maximum capacity.”  Staffing levels in court buildings will not exceed 80%.  Social distancing will be maintained.

Although the presiding Judge will have the final word on how matters will be heard, matters that are presumptively “in-person”, include:

  1. Supreme Court1: — trials, evidentiary hearings, inquests, essential matters and appearances and conferences with one or more self-represented parties.
  2. County Court (Superior Criminal)—trials, evidentiary hearings, non-custodial arraignments, Waivers of indictment, pleas and sentences for defendants not in custody, motion arguments, treatment court and judicial diversion cases where the Judge determines that an appearance is necessary to protect the health and safety of a defendant, grand jury proceedings, instances where the defendant can not be located or communicated with and essential matters
  3. Family Court – evidentiary hearings, child support proceedings, permanency hearings, FCA Article 10 consents, admissions and surrenders and essential matters. 
  4. Surrogate’s Court – citations and orders to show cause, bench trials, evidentiary hearings, essential matters and appearances and conferences with one or more self-represented parties
  5. District Court Civil – bench trials, evidentiary hearings, small claims matters, out of custody arraignments on Town Code violations and essential matters.
  6. District Court Criminal – trials preliminary hearings, evidentiary hearings, appearance ticket arraignments, vehicle and traffic appearances, pleas and sentences for defendants at liberty, motion arguments, arraignments of defendants accused of violations of Article 31 of the Vehicle and Traffic law, treatment court where the Judge determines that an appearance is necessary to protect the health and safety of a defendant and essential matters.

While the Memo lists specific matters that presumptively will be held virtually, anything not listed above presumptively will be held virtually.

In addition, civil and criminal jury trials will commence on a pilot basis on September 8, 2020.  Operational considerations will be put in place to protect the health and safety of those in the courthouse, including those called for jury duty.  These protocols will include, but not be limited to, social distancing, the required wearing of face masks, enhanced cleaning services and access to sanitizing stations.  A push to resolve matters through settlement (civil) and pleas (criminal) will be made prior to scheduling a case for trial and again before jury selection.

As to default judgments the Memo provides that:

Please also be advised that continuing in Phase 4.1, default judgments shall not be granted where, pursuant to CPLR § 3215, the default occurred after March 16, 2020. Furthermore, no default judgment requiring the defendant’s notice pursuant to CPLR § 3215(g) shall be granted, unless the application was heard prior to March 17, 2020 and, proper notice was given (10th Judicial District, Suffolk County’s AO 45-20 [HERE]).

1 This Blog has been advised by the Office of the Administrative Judge, that the reference to “Superior Civil” Court means Supreme Court and the reference to “Superior Criminal” court means County Courts.

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