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The courts never closed: Historical Society of the NY Courts launches digital archive

Interviews document efforts to keep the court open during pandemic

September 17, 2021 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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The Historical Society of the New York Courts has launched “Dispensing Justice from a Distance,” its digital archive of nearly 40 interviews with judges and court staff (including public safety and tech support), documenting their real-time experiences to keep the courts open, both virtually and in person, during the months of lockdown in New York.

A timeline tracks the court system’s major milestones during the pandemic with images and documents to complete the record.

In early March 2020, New York became the epicenter of the national COVID-19 pandemic, with lockdowns that dramatically affected court operations and the delivery of justice. Despite the widespread disruption, the New York State courts continued to function and provide access to justice throughout the pandemic. How they did so comes alive in this one-of-a-kind archive.
Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, who is interviewed, said: “The transformation of our court system from a massive, complex, in-person operating model into a functioning virtual model capable of safely providing access to justice in the midst of an unprecedented public health crisis was a remarkable achievement.

“I am grateful to the Historical Society for documenting that achievement through personal interviews with dozens of judges and court professionals who led the court system’s response to the operational challenges presented by COVID-19. “Dispensing Justice from a Distance” serves as an invaluable record of how our court system was able to overcome the challenges of the pandemic and honor our mission of ensuring access to justice and upholding the rule of law,” she said.

Marilyn Marcus, executive director of the Historical Society of the New York Courts, speaks at the New York International Arbitration Center. Facebook photo

Marilyn Marcus, the Society’s executive director, said, “We view these accounts as a living history archive that captures for generations to come the visceral feel of what it was like to figure out how to keep the courts operating during the pandemic.

“Guided by the Chief Judge and Chief Administrative Judge, aided by the remarkable work of the technology staff, administrative and sitting judges, chief clerks and security officers learned new ways to work together while they were forced to be apart. These are their compelling personal stories,” she said.


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