CIVIL LITIGATION IN THE TIME OF CORONAVIRUS
If you have a civil litigation case that you want to begin, nothing will stand in your way. What happens thereafter, in light of coronavirus, is being determined anew almost daily.
Like much of our country, the New York State court system has adapted and now embraced some radical changes when faced with this virus.
On March 13, 2020 Lawrence K. Marks, the Chief Administrative Judge of the New York State Unified Court System, announced that civil jury trials that had not begun as of March 16, 2020 would be “postponed until further notice.”
Two days later, he updated his announcement. Effective at 5:00 pm on Monday, March 16, 2020 “all non-essential functions of the courts” were postponed until further notice. In Supreme Court, our state-wide trial level court, essential functions include guardianships, civil commitments and Mental Hygiene Law applications. Everything else is non-essential. This includes the bulk of civil cases such as personal injury, breach of contract and the like. All eviction proceedings and pending eviction orders “shall be suspended statewide until further notice.” Judges were directed to exercise “judicial discretion in a manner designed to minimize court appearance and traffic in the courts.” Family court, criminal courts and Surrogates court matters are not addressed in this blog post.
Likewise, the federal courts have adapted as well.
The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York is made up of the counties of New York, Bronx, Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Orange, Dutchess, and Sullivan and draws jurors from those counties. The Court hears cases in Manhattan, White Plains, and Poughkeepsie. The federal court, while mindful of the directions of the President as well as Governor Cuomo, and the effort to be socially distant, has left it to the individual judges to determine how they will handle their civil cases. Judges “are strongly encouraged to conduct court proceedings by telephone or video conferencing where practicable.”
The third branch of government has reacted swiftly and taken steps which will, unfortunately but unavoidably, lengthen litigation. Yet this appears to be the safest course of conduct. Justice delayed will not be, under these unique circumstances, justice denied.
This is not intended to be legal advice. You should contact an attorney for advice regarding your specific situation.
Robert M. Lefland is Senior Counsel and primary attorney in charge of civil litigation and Personal Injury at J&G.
He can be reached by calling 866.303.9595 toll free or 845.764.9656 and by email .
He is available by appointment on Saturday’s.
If you need his immediate attention, you can reach him on cell.