As the New York State Unified Court System navigates the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic 7th Judicial District Administrative Judge Craig Doran announced updated operating protocols effective November 23rd.
The changes apply for all courts that fall within in the 7th Judicial District including courthouses in Cayuga, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Seneca, Steuben, Wayne and Yates Counties.
While remaining open for business since the beginning of the pandemic, the court system has remained fluid in adapting court protocols as needed to contain the spread of COVID. With guidance from public health officials, plans to safely resume more normalized court operations have been ongoing.
Beginning today, court operating protocols will be updated in response to an increase in regional COVID metrics. “The updates are a measured response assuring that we are appropriately and effectively responding to the data while assuring continued access to courts, particularly for the most urgent matters,” Judge Doran said. The new protocols are an update to the October 19, 2020 Return to In-Person Operation Plan (RIOP).
Most significantly impacted by the updates will be in-person and virtual court appearances and courtroom occupancy. Until further notice, occupancy of all courtrooms shall be limited to the lesser of ten people or half of the posted room occupancy per code. The number of non-judicial staff reporting to courthouses shall be reduced to the minimum number necessary to ensure safe operation. All staff not reporting to the courthouse will work remotely. All current personal safety measures including COVID screening at courthouse entrances, mask wearing, social distancing, etc. will continue.
In addition, no new prospective trial jurors (criminal or civil) or grand jurors will be summoned for service. The types of matters that may be heard in-person at a courthouse have been scaled back to reduce foot-traffic while the use of technology to hold virtual appearances is encouraged. Exceptions to include Treatment Court and Judicial Diversion appearances where the presiding judge determines that an in-person appearance is necessary to protect the health and safety of a defendant. Another exception is any proceeding involving a self-represented litigant where the presiding judge determines that holding a virtual proceeding denies the self-represented litigant meaningful access to the proceeding. All other matters must be heard virtually including Bench Trials in Civil and Criminal cases, Evidentiary Hearings in Civil and Criminal Cases, Motion Arguments, Mental Hygiene Law Proceedings pertaining to a hospitalized adult, Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR), Arbitration and Small Claims Assessment Review proceedings.
Judge Doran said that he thanks the community in advance for their patience and understanding as the courts adapt to meet COVID challenges. Administrative Orders and memos related to the updated court operating protocols can be found on the 7th Judicial District website at http://ww2.nycourts.gov/courts/7jd/index.shtml. Individuals with court-related questions are encouraged to call his/her designated county courthouse. Courthouse contact information is also available on the 7th Judicial District website.
Additional legal information and resources can be found at the following websites:
- LawHelp: https://www.lawhelpny.org/resource/coronavirus
- NYCourts.gov CourtHelp: https://www.nycourts.gov/courthelp/
For information and updates from the New York State Unified Court System on the coronavirus, please visit www.nycourts.gov or call the State Coronavirus Telephone Hotline at 833-503-0447.
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