State courts halt evictions, jury trials during coronavirus emergency

March 13, 2020 David Brand
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The state court system’s chief administrative judge announced a one-week moratorium on evictions Friday and the postponement of civil jury trials and trial matters amid the growing coronavirus emergency.

In a memo to court personnel, Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks suspended Civil Trial Assignment Parts, urged adjournments and remote appearances in preliminary conference parts and prohibited non-essential travel by Unified Court System employees.

The decisions were motivated by “ongoing efforts to reduce courthouse traffic to combat spread of the coronavirus and protect the health and safety of our workforce,” Marks wrote. The directive came from Chief Judge Janet DiFiore as well, he added, and is “consistent with recent action by Governor Andrew Cuomo to limit large public gatherings through the state.” 

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The moratorium on evictions, which Marks said could end up lasting longer than the initial first week, comes as tenants’ rights advocates have implored state leaders to prevent New Yorkers from becoming homeless during the coronavirus outbreak. 

The economic impact of major work slow-downs and venue closures across New York City and state will have a drastic impact on worker pay, advocates and economists say, jeopardizing rent payments for low-wage employees who live paycheck to paycheck.

Shortly after the court system announced the one-week stay on evictions, the Real Estate Board of New York and several major landlords released a joint statement vowing not to evict tenants for three months. 

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