New York City remains in phase 3. Although Governor Cuomo extended the provision tolling the Statute of Limitations until September 4th, our Litigation/Appellate Department continues to write motions and appeals as if there is no “pause” and when the stay is lifted, we will be ready to “press the button” for you.
Pursuant to an announcement on August 17th by Chief Judge DiFiore, the court system is making safe and steady progress on the road back to in-person operations, courthouses across the State are beginning to gradually transition back to in-person operations, highlighted by the completion of a suspended murder trial that resumed last week with a jury in the Bronx County Supreme Court
New York City is tracking phase 4 of the State’s economic reopening, particularly in criminal courts. Grand Jury proceedings commenced in New York City on August 10th. For lawyers and litigants who cannot appear in person for public health reasons, the Courts are offering and encouraging the use of virtual bench trials. The Courts have launched a “Virtual Summary trial program in Bronx, Queens, and Richmond counties, in order to tackle the large inventory of tort cases. Although nearly half of the tort cases referred to virtual ADR have resulted in settlements, for the other half of those cases, the parties will be given the opportunity to consent to a one-day summary bench trial with relaxed rules of evidence, and the lawyers and litigants will be given the option of appearing virtually or in-person.
Outside the City, plans to restart jury trials in civil and criminal cases will take effect as early as September and October.
Due to the recent uptick in Covid-19 cases around the country, the courts extended COVID screening protocol to all judges and nonjudicial personnel. The screening involves temperature readings upon arrival to the workplace and a daily COVID self-assessment.
A “Commission on the Future of New York Courts” has been formed bringing together experts in the field of law, government, business, technology, and public service to provide guidance on navigating a safe judicial system through this pandemic.
On August 17th, the Nassau County courts began another expansion of “In-Person Operations” for what is termed “Phase 4.1” – the return of jury trials to resume in Supreme Court in the beginning of October. Criminal Jury trials are intended to resume in November.
In New York City, virtual summary bench trials are being conducted in civil matters in Supreme Court, Bronx County, and are expanding that program to New York County this week. These streamlined trials are often completed in a single day. Efforts are being made to expand the program to jurisdictions outside the City, with Nassau County on the radar screen in the near future.
The Courts are also developing a uniform preliminary conference order for use in Civil Courts citywide. This project is expected to be piloted in motor vehicle tort cases and tort claims pending against the City, beginning in September.
In Kings and Queens Counties, both courts have decided to automate the way that discovery conferences are held.
In Kings County, there will be no physical in-person appearances for the foreseeable future on Preliminary Conferences, Compliance Conferences, The City/TA Discovery Part, Final Conference Part and Final Disposition Part. Preliminary Conferences will be AUTOMATIC effective 7/13/20 and the other parts will accept Consent Orders.
Likewise, in Queens County, the Court has directed that Preliminary Conferences and Compliance Conferences will be done by the parties completing a stipulation setting forth all discovery deadlines.
The Supreme Court, Kings County, and the Supreme Court, Bronx County, have extended Note of Issue filing deadlines. Various judges have provided the bar with template conference forms to complete in order to facilitate virtual discovery and conferences. Supreme, Nassau, and Supreme, Suffolk, are well into phase 4 with new protocols for an “In-Person Operations Plan”, which can be found on the Courts’ website.
ALL FOUR DEPARTMENTS OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION ARE ACCEPTING FILINGS
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