ARE THE COURTS CONTINUING TO FUNCTION?

Yes, but in a drastically reduced capacity in order to continue the social distancing efforts that are necessary to stem the spread of COVID-19.  If you have a current civil or criminal trial in which you are a party (plaintiff, defendant, petitioner or respondent), a witness, or a juror, that trial will continue to its conclusion.  If you are a party or witness in a case that has not yet gone to trial (one that has not yet picked a jury or heard opening statements by attorneys), that trial will not happen until further notice, even if it was scheduled to begin soon.  If you have upcoming jury service, it has been suspended until further notice.  Please do NOT come to the courthouse for a scheduled trial or jury service unless the trial has already started.  Either the court or your attorney will contact you with updates as they become available.  If you need a notary, those services can now be provided through video conferencing.  Banks and post office provide notary services.  If a new action needs to be filed, please note that the statute of limitations for civil, criminal, surrogates and family court actions is currently suspended.  Actions where the statute was set to expire after March 1st will be permissible until the Governor revokes the suspension of the statute of limitations.

Courts across New York State are moving to virtual appearances for essential cases in order to support social distancing efforts.  The courts are using Skype for Business to accomplish this.  You do not need a Skype for Business account in order to participate.  For appearances that will be conducted virtually, the judge’s chambers will send a link to all attorneys and non-represented litigants via email that they can use to enter the Skype for Business appearance.  Parties will need broadband internet and a webcam with microphone to use this service.  Keep in mind that many computers sold recently, particularly laptops, already have webcams and microphones built in.

Courts are only allowing new cases to be filed if they meet a narrow definition of “essential” matters.  These matters are as follows:

  • Criminal matters
    • arraignments
    • bail applications, reviews and writs
    • temporary orders of protection
    • resentencing of retained and incarcerated defendants
    • essential sex offender registration act (SORA) matters
  • Family Court
    • child protection intake cases involving removal applications
    • newly filed juvenile delinquency intake cases involving remand placement applications, or modification thereof
    • emergency family offense petitions/temporary orders of protection
    • orders to show cause
    • stipulations on submission

 

  • Supreme Court
    • Mental Hygiene Law (MHL) applications and hearings addressing patient retention or release
    • MHL hearings addressing the involuntary administration of medication and other medical care
    • newly filed MHL applications for an assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) plan
    • emergency applications in guardianship matters
    • temporary orders of protection (including but not limited to matters involving domestic violence)
    • emergency applications related to the coronavirus
    • emergency Election Law applications 8. extreme risk protection orders (ERPO)
  • Civil/Housing matters
    • applications addressing landlord lockouts (including reductions in essential services)
    • applications addressing serious code violations
    • applications addressing serious repair orders
    • applications for post-eviction relief
  • Surrogates court matters
    • Article 17 and 17a guardianships – grant authority to act when it is necessary for the health or safety of the child or disabled adult, including the authority to e-sign financial documents.
    • Adoptions – proceedings necessary for surrender of parental rights to the adoptive child and necessary for health insurance matters.
    • Probate, Administration, or Voluntary Administration Proceedings – granting letters of authority for actions deemed necessary by the presiding judge, including for funeral arrangements.
    • Proceedings brought by the Public Administrator for the health, safety, or well-being of involved individuals, including funeral, burial or cremation arrangements.