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New York Courts Grapple with COVID-19

Like every organization in New York, the judicial system is doing its best to find ways to adapt amid the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. While state and federal courts remain open for now, the operation of the courts has slowed to a crawl.

Criminal court officials have been struggling with how to balance the need to administer justice and protect people’s rights with the quickly growing danger to the health of New Yorkers. On March 20 — the same day Governor Andrew Cuomo issued the statewide stay-at-home order — The New York Times reported some of the steps the courts are working on or have already implemented. These include:

  • Delaying trials
  • Setting up monitors in jails so inmates can appear virtually in court
  • Putting all grand juries on hold
  • Releasing defendants accused of low-level indictable crimes (since grand juries cannot meet)
  • Telling people summoned for jury duty not to appear at the courthouse
  • Postponing sentencing
  • Urging judges to avoid in-person hearings
  • Using videoconferencing for arraignments, hearings and other proceedings

Regarding state courts, Chief Judge Janet DiFiore posted a statement on the New York State Courts website that “all essential functions of the courts remain available to ensure New Yorkers may access the justice system during this extremely challenging time.”

Two special state courts, one in midtown Manhattan and one in Red Hook, Brooklyn, are being used to house arrested people who show signs of COVID-19 infection.

Regarding federal courts, all four districts in the state of New York are continually issuing updated procedures, as are individual judges. Their actions are generally in line with those of the state courts.

For the most up to date court information, we advise checking the court’s websites, as situations may change faster than we are able to update them here on our site.

At Tacopina, Seigel & DeOreo, our attorneys are working nonstop to keep current clients informed and to make sure new clients have access to our criminal defense services during this extremely difficult time. If you have any questions about how COVID-19 might affect your case, don’t hesitate to call our Manhattan office at 212-227-8877 or contact us online anytime.

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