New York State Courts to Open Virtually for Non-Essential Cases

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The New York State Unified Court System announced new measures for virtual court operations for non-essential cases, supplementing the essential and emergency court proceedings in effect statewide. Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks issued a memorandum announcing that New York courts will begin taking action to provide remote access for non-essential matters such as commercial, asbestos and other tort litigation on April 13, 2020.

Although parties cannot yet file documents for non-essential matters, they can request to schedule conferences with judges, who will be available during normal court hours to address discovery disputes and conduct settlement conferences. The courts will resume deciding fully-submitted motions and the courts converted all motions that had pending oral arguments to on-submission motions. The memorandum further indicates that the courts will prove additional details about virtual hearings for non-essential matters next week.

Chief Administrative Judge Marks previously issued Administrative Order 78/20, which identified 23 matters deemed essential, such as orders of protection, Mental Hygiene Law applications, and serious housing code violation applications. All New York State courts now conduct essential and emergency matter hearings by video, including Skype, or telephone.

Hon. Deborah Kaplan, Administrative Judge for Civil Matters in New York County, issued a protocol providing some clarity for parties who are unsure if the court deems their matter essential, as Administrative Order 78/20 includes a catch-all provision. Uncertain parties can submit an emergency application by order to show cause, which should include a detailed affidavit or affirmation setting forth why the court should deem the matter essential. Parties must accompany their applications with the form entitled Notice of Essential of Filing Pursuant to AO-78-20 (E), which is available on the NYSCEF website under “Forms.”

Parties to pending New York state matters and those contemplating emergency applications would be well-advised to locate a computer with Skype capabilities if possible. Parties who are uncertain about whether the court will schedule a virtual hearing should monitor eCourts for their particular case, the venue and assigned judge’s particular rules, their e-mail inboxes, the nycourts.gov website, and their mailboxes if possible.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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