ALBANY, New York — The Chief Judge of the New York court system lifted the state’s ban on filing a lawsuit in cases other than those deemed essential. Courts across New York have been closed with the exception of highly limited circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic that swept through and devastated New York State. The acceptance of new case filings is not a signal that courts in New York will return to “normal” any time soon. According to the New York Law Journal, courthouses in western New York can reopen with new safety measures in place and firmly enforced. Lifting the ban from courthouses in western and upstate New York coincides with the governor’s efforts to restart the state’s economy.
Some areas of New York are allowed to reopen for business, including some courts. Some regions of New York entered the first phase of the state’s reopening plan, which has allowed courts in twenty counties to reopen. Judges who sit in these smaller courts will be allowed to return to their benches, along with their staff members, to resume the business of doing justice. Additional courthouses will resume their function on a limited basis by the latter half of the week.
Restarting the wheels of justice means allowing some people into the courthouses along with the electronic filing of new lawsuits. Personal appearances will be brief. Patrons of the courts will be screened at the security checkpoint at the court’s entrance for COVID-19 symptoms. Anyone showing symptoms will be turned away out of necessity.
Reopening some regions to business is not the green light to resume life as we left it in February, especially in courts around New York. Jury trials remain suspended. Additionally, many court hearings will be held online.
Law firms can resume daily practice when the region enters what the governor’s office is calling Phase 2. For now, law firms must conduct their business from remote locations.
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