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Courts to reopen for in-person criminal proceedings by Aug. 10

July 10, 2020 Rob Abruzzese
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Earlier this month, New York City decided to pump the brakes on reopening restaurants for indoor dining due to fears of spreading COVID-19, but soon the court system will reopen for in-person appearances.

Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks announced late Tuesday that starting on Monday, Aug. 10, grand juries will convene in criminal cases at New York City courthouses.

“As we move forward with our phased-in restoration of in-court operations in the five boroughs, we will continue to work diligently to meet the justice needs of those served by our New York City courts while remaining vigilant in protecting the health of our judges, professional workforce and all those who visit and use our courthouses,” said Chief Administrative Judge Marks.

Jury summonses are expected to be sent to prospective jurors “in the coming days,” Marks said. In addition to grand juries, in-court conferences of felony cases where the defendant is not in custody will resume.

In the Civil Courts and Supreme Court, Civil Term, in-person proceedings will be expanded to bench trials. Family Court proceedings will continue virtually, but there will be additional in-person appearances as needed.

Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks made the announcement that grand juries and other criminal proceedings will resume in person on Aug. 10.

The courts are technically open as part of Phase Two, but only judges, essential staff, and court officers are working in person with very few members of the public at this time. Since the end of March, most court services are taking place virtually.

As Phase Three starts, the courts have continued to conduct virtual hearings as much as possible. However, courts will hold greater number of in-person operations including preliminary hearings on cases involving defendants being held in jail on felony complaints, selected plea and sentencing proceedings for defendants at liberty, and arraignments of defendants who have been issued desk appearance tickets.

Also with Phase Three, in cases involving an incarcerated person, that person may appear remotely unless ordered by a judge otherwise. Juvenile delinquency proceedings and mental hygiene law proceedings pertaining to a hospitalized adult will continue to be held virtually. Mediation and alternative dispute resolution will also be conducted remotely.

To accommodate in-person appearances, court appearances, calendars and courtroom usage will all be staggered to limit foot traffic in the courthouses. Non-judicial staffers will also only be asked to return when necessary.

As always, courthouse visitors will be required to undergo COVID-19 screening that will include temperature checks before entering courthouses. Anyone entering the courts will be required to wear a mask, including all staff who interact with the public. Courthouses have been marked to support social distancing, court facilities will be regularly sanitized and acrylic barriers, hand sanitizer dispensers and other safety features will be installed as necessary.

Since the courts closed in the middle of March, there have been 19,000 arraignments, 34,000 criminal proceedings and nearly 600 preliminary hearings conducted. There have been 11,360 proceedings conducted in the Supreme Court citywide.

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