Courts In NYC To Begin Phase 2 Of Reopening Plan

By Emma Cueto
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Law360 (June 23, 2020, 10:05 PM EDT) -- The New York State Unified Court System announced Tuesday that New York City courts will on Wednesday begin Phase Two of the state's reopening process, increasing the presence of nonjudicial staff in courthouses, though most cases will continue to be heard virtually.

As the city continues to ease the restrictions triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, judges and chambers staff have been returning to courthouses over the past two weeks, according to the court, and courthouses will now begin to increase in-person staffing for administrative roles and employees needed to support the increased foot traffic.

"As we continue to make progress in restoring in-person court operations throughout the state, we remain mindful of the many challenges ahead — particularly in our high volume courthouses in New York City and other populous areas of the state — and vigilant in following the new safety measures and operational protocols designed to protect the health of our judges, staff and court visitors," Chief Judge Janet DiFiore said in a statement.

Courthouses will continue to require visitors and staff to wear masks and will continue to take steps to create physical distance between people. In addition, courthouses will continue to be regularly sanitized, the announcement said.

Family court will also be adding additional virtual courtrooms, according to the announcement.

The court system's website still has notices posted telling people with flu-like symptoms or who have been exposed to COVID-19 not to enter courthouses.

Five of the 13 judicial districts in New York state have moved or are in the process of moving toward' Phase Three of the reopening plan, according to a public message from Judge DiFiore on Monday. Under Phase Three, courthouses will hear an increased number of matters in person, including child support cases, certain criminal trials and some civil bench trials, the message said.

The judge also said that since New York City began Phase One of the reopening on June 10, the things have been proceeding smoothly.

"We are encouraged by the smooth and steady progress being made all across the state as we gradually restore in-person court operations, but we do recognize that there are many difficult challenges ahead of us, especially with regard to our high-volume courthouses in New York City and other populous areas of the state," she said in the message.

--Editing by Michael Watanabe.

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