Brooklyn Supreme Court to begin in-person appearances for criminal cases on July 20
Supreme Court Administrative Judge Matthew D’Emic sent out a letter this week to various legal aid groups, including Brooklyn Defender Services, where he announced that there will be an increase in the amount of in-person appearances in the court starting on July 20.
“As part of its Phase Three plan, the criminal term of Kings County Supreme Court will carefully resume in-person court appearances in limited parts for counsel and non-jailed defendants commencing July 20th,” Justice D’Emic wrote.
“All appearances will be by appointment and will take place in the ceremonial courtroom on the second floor,” Justice D’Emic continued. “Everyone entering the courthouse will be required to wear a mask and have his or her temperature taken at the entrance. Notification to the attorney of the date and time of appearance will be by email.”
The ceremonial courtroom is located on the second floor, and is larger than the average courtroom as it is primarily used for public and courthouse events. The room will also be outfitted with markings to encourage social distancing, will be regularly sanitized, and acrylic barriers and hand sanitizer dispensers will be in place.
Justice D’Emic’s announcement comes at the same time Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks announced that grand juries will convene in criminal cases starting on Aug. 10.
While New York City has entered Phase Three, many people are still not riding the subways and are working remotely. However, Chief Administrative Judge Marks said that the court system plans on sending out jury summonses “in the coming days.”
Some judges and lawyers who have spoken to the Brooklyn Eagle in private expressed skepticism that jurors would even bother showing up as the pandemic still rages throughout most of the country.
Domenick Napoletano, co-chair of the NYS Bar Association’s Emergency COVID-19 Task Force for Solo and Small Firm Practitioners, said that he would ignore a jury summons if he got one.
“Nobody is going to show up,” he said. “They’ll all get sick. Watch and see.”
One lawyer suggested that jurors may show up if they are out of work and hurting for money.
A group of public defender organizations from New York City wrote a letter to Chief Administrative Judge Marks this week saying that in-person proceedings will threaten the health and safety of visitors.
“Given what we believed was a collaborative effort to guarantee a safe environment upon returning to live appearances in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we were shocked to learn of this drastic change in plan,” they wrote. “We strongly oppose reopening of the Supreme Court because it is not safe and it is not essential to do so.”
The Brooklyn Treatment Court, meanwhile, has been hearing cases remotely since May 6, according to Justice Joseph Gubbay. They will continue to do so and are prepared to conduct assessments on new cases, reach dispositions and enter into new treatment mandates. Justice Gubbay asked attorneys with cases that have been arraigned since March 1 to reach out to the assistant district attorney who works the part.
“Once cases are identified we can assign case managers, schedule virtual assessments, and calendar the case to hear the offer, explain the treatment recommendation and begin the recovery process,” Justice Gubbay said.
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