All NYC courts expected to go virtual by end of week for emergency cases
As the legal community struggles to figure out how to operate in the era of the coronavirus pandemic, Chief Judge DiFiore gave a brief update to the court system on Monday afternoon where she explained that the courts and their employees are doing the best they can to provide access to justice.
“A significant number of our judges, court officers and other staff have fallen ill from the virus and we are obviously keeping them in our thoughts and prayers and wishing them all a full and speedy recovery,” said Chief Judge DiFiore. “NYS and NYC are the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. The expert consensus is that the number of individuals will continue to rise, we will continue to keep our courts open throughout this difficult period.”
The Criminal Courts and Family Courts throughout New York have remained open throughout the pandemic. Staff in those courts have been cut back to essential workers only and they are hearing emergency cases.
The chief judge explained that while there have been some glitches, they have worked hard to find solutions and are encouraged enough that they will expand video conferencing to other courts in New York City by April 3 for emergency cases.
“We’ve already concluded hundreds of criminal arraignments and critical Family Court proceedings and the process is working well overall,” Chief Judge DiFiore said.
DiFiore said Brooklyn has struggled with arraignment delays more than most courts, with the relatively high volume of cases in its Criminal Court and a growing number of court staffers who have gotten sick.
“We’re working internally to increase our virtual capacity in (the Criminal Court) and communicating with the defense bar and other stakeholders with how we can work together to improve the efficiency in that operation,” the chief judge said. “In the Family Court, due to the large number of parties involved in cases, the result is delays in some cases as well. We’ve reached out to family agencies to discuss how we can streamline that process. With everyone’s cooperation, I think we can quickly resolve those issues.”
She said that the court system will continue to work closely with various bar associations to iron out the kinks in the process, but that the courts are ready to start expanding videoconferencing not only in New York City, but upstate as well by April 10.
“Our overarching goal is to keep the courts open to provide the critical, essential and emergency services that only we can provide,” DiFiore said. “At the same time, given the serious threat to public health created by the coronavirus, we are fulfilling our duty by implementing processes that keep the number of people in our buildings to a minimum.”
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