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Surrogate’s Courts prepare for influx of new cases, says NY State Chief Judge

New filings will be accepted on COVID-19 related cases by Monday

May 15, 2020 Rob Abruzzese

With 22,170 COVID-19 related deaths in New York, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the state is the epicenter of the pandemic. That death toll is expected to have a large impact on the Surrogate’s Courts, but Chief Judge Janet DiFiore said that they will be ready to handle the extra cases.

“Tragically, New York State has been overwhelmed by Coronavirus-related fatalities,” said Chief Judge DiFiore. “I have confidence that, by leveraging all resources, our Surrogate’s Courts are fully prepared for the surge of cases involving individuals who passed away due to COVID-related causes, ensuring these matters are handled with special care and resolved as efficiently as possible.”

Chief Judge DiFiore said that the state has already begun designating COVID-related matters as essential and that by Monday, May 18, new, uncontested estate cases involving New Yorkers who died of coronavirus-related conditions are allowed to be filed in the Surrogate’s Court.

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Brooklyn Surrogate Court Justice Hon. Margarita Lopez Torres. Photo: Rob Abruzzese/Brooklyn Eagle

The court system has partnered with the New York State Bar Association and other bar associations to develop a network of volunteer lawyers to provide free legal representation, and these lawyers will be made available to people who cannot afford a lawyer and are bringing cases in the Surrogate’s Courts.

Former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman is overseeing that pro bono network, and the immediate past president of the NYS Bar Association, Michael Miller, is spearheading the effort in the Surrogate’s Court.

“The New York legal community has always risen to the task in times of crisis. I am grateful to Michael Miller and New York State Bar Association President Hank Greenberg for their leadership on this vital program, and to our bar leaders and members throughout the State for their ongoing generosity in response to the immense legal needs of New Yorkers resulting from the pandemic,” he said.


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