New York City

State halts evictions, wraps up trials as courts cut back to most ‘essential’ functions

March 16, 2020 David Brand
Brooklyn Supreme Court. Eagle file photo by Rob Abruzzese
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The state court system has suspended all eviction orders and postponed “non-essential” court functions until further notice as New Yorkers contend with the unprecedented COVID-19 coronavirus emergency.

Ongoing criminal and civil trials will continue to their conclusion, but the courts will not commence any new trials and all staff should stay home unless “expressly notified” to come to work by their supervisors, the state’s chief administrative judge wrote in a memo to Unified Court System personnel Sunday.

“These initiatives are part of our continuing and evolving efforts to assure the operation of the courts in the safest possible manner for the public and our employees in this time of medical emergency,” said Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks in the memo to 17,000 court employees Sunday.

Criminal court arraignments will be conducted via video in New York City, but many defendants will be immediately released. “Felony matters wherein the defendant is not in custody” will be adjourned until further notice, Marks wrote.

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The state designated two New York City courts — the Red Hook Community Court and the Midtown Community Court — for defendants “believed to be at medical risk related to the coronavirus.”

“Judges will exercise judicial discretion in a manner designed to minimize court appearances and traffic in the courts,” Marks said.

Housing Court will continue to operate to address pressing issues facing tenants, like landlord lockouts, major housing code violations and repair orders.

Supreme Court, Civil Term will address mental hygiene law applications, civil commitments and guardianships, Marks said.

The directive, sent to staff Sunday evening, builds on a previous memo issued by Marks and Chief Judge Janet DiFiore on March 12.

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