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THE ADMINISTRATIVE JUDGE FOR SUFFOLK COUNTY HAS PROMULGATED NEW RULES, EFFECTIVE NOVEMBER 23, 2020, TO ADDRESS THE COURT SYSTEM’S RESPONSE TO THE RECENT SURGE IN COVID-19 CASES

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  • Posted on: Nov 20 2020

On November 4, 2020, this Blog (the “November 4 Blog”) provided an update on the New York State Court system’s preparation for the anticipated surge in COVID-19 cases. On November 18, 2020, Andrew A. Crecca, the District Administrative Judge for the 10th Judicial District (Suffolk County), circulated a memorandum on “Suffolk County Updated Operating Protocols [“the Plan”] Effective November 23, 2020” (the “Memorandum”).  As noted in the November 4 Blog, “the country has seen a surge in new coronavirus cases.”  In the Memorandum, Administrative Judge Crecca recognized that while “[f]oot traffic in the courthouses has been gradually increased to correspond with an improvement in the metrics measuring the spread of Coronavirus” once the Unified Court System “permitted in-person proceedings in accordance with the Governor’s un-PAUSE New York plan.”  However, Administrative Judge Crecca recognized that the recent “metrics have indicated the need to once again reduce foot traffic in the courthouses to protect the health and safety of litigants, lawyers, court staff and judges.”

Administrative Judge Crecca incorporated by reference into the Memorandum, Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks’ November 13, 2020 Memorandum (the “Marks Memorandum”).  (The Marks Memorandum in annexed to the Memorandum, but can also be found HERE.)  The Marks Memorandum, which became effective on November 16, 2020 and “revis[ed] certain USC statewide operational practices in the trial courts” due to “adverse trends in coronavirus transmission rates in New York State” provides that: (1) no new civil or criminal jurors will be summoned for jury duty, but pending civil and criminal trials will proceed to conclusion; (2) no new grand jurors will be summoned for grand jury duty until further notice, but pending grand juries will continue to conclusion; and, (3) all future bench trials and hearings will be virtual unless permission is otherwise granted by the “respective Deputy Chief Administrative Judge”; (4) in-person socially-distanced court conferences will continue and “all coronavirus health and safety procedures should continue to be closely followed.”

According to Administrative Judge Crecca, “the Plan should be considered an update to the Return to ln-Person Operations Plan effective October 19, 2020 and to [the Marks Memorandum].”  While the entire Plan is set forth within the Memorandum, some of the components, not otherwise reflected in the Marks Memorandum are as follows:

  • The calendar times for different courts (e.g., family, criminal) in the same building shall be staggered;
  • A maximum of 50% of the courtrooms in a facility can be used at the same time;
  • No more than 50% of judges/referees/magistrates of the same type (e.g., family, criminal) can hold in-person calendars at the same time;
  • No more than 10 cases per part per hour shall be scheduled;
  • Courtroom occupancy shall be limited to the lesser of 10 people or ½ the posted occupancy per code (except for ongoing jury trials and grand jury proceedings;
  • There will be reductions in non-judicial staff reporting to the courthouse and others will work remotely;
  • In-person matters (of the type set forth in the Memorandum) may be heard if the presiding judge finds that it is unlawful or impractical to conduct the proceeding virtually (hybrid in-person/virtual proceedings will also be considered where practical);
  • All other matters not permitted to be heard in person (of the type described in the Memorandum, which include, but are not limited to, civil and criminal bench trials and evidentiary hearings, motion arguments, Mental Hygiene Law proceedings pertaining to a hospitalized adult, ADR where both parties are represented by counsel and counsel will be present, Part 137 attorney-client fee dispute arbitrations) MUST be heard virtually.

In addition, the Memorandum also contained updated operating protocols for Suffolk County Town and Village Courts along the lines as stated above.

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