With the mid-Hudson Valley and Long Island regions set to begin reopening amid the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, courts will also begin opening up doors to in-person proceedings.
Janet DiFiore, the Chief Judge for New York State, announced on Tuesday, May 26 that courts will begin phasing the return of judges and staff to courthouses in the regions now that they’ve met the state mandates for reopening.
Beginning on Wednesday, May 27, courts will gradually resume in-person operations in Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland and Westchester counties, followed by Ulster and Sullivan counties on Thursday, May 28; and Nassau and Suffolk counties on Friday, May 29.
The reopening of courts in the New York City suburbs comes on the heels of courts doing the same in 48 counties in the Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley, Southern Tier, North Country, Central New York, Western New York, and the Capital District regions.
The mid-Hudson Valley region was given the green light to reopen the economy on Tuesday, while Long Island is expected to reach the state's benchmarks on Wednesday.
“Beginning tomorrow, New York State court system judges and chambers staff, along with designated clerks and support staff, in the nine previously named counties will return to their courthouses,” DiFiore said in a statement. “As of Monday, May 25, courts in these counties have been accepting new cases that are filed electronically.”
Similar to the approach the state has taken to reopening economies, the courts will be reopening in phases.
The first phase will include judges’ chambers, clerks’ offices, and back offices. Social distancing protocols will be strictly enforced, and there will be steps taken to restrict traffic in courthouses.
“While remaining open for business throughout the pandemic, courts in these nine counties had limited their operations, consolidating court facilities, implementing and expanding virtual court models, and taking a wide range of other measures to restrict courthouse traffic and contain the spread of COVID-19,” DiFiore continued. “With guidance from public health officials, plans to safely resume more normalized court operations have been ongoing.”
Additional safety precautions include:
- Non-employee court visitors will be required to undergo COVID-19 screening before entering the courthouse;
- Anyone entering the courthouse will be required to wear a mask;
- All staff who interact with court visitors must wear a mask;
- Courtroom and other areas will be carefully marked to ensure proper physical distancing;
- Court facilities will be regularly sanitized;
- Acrylic barriers, hand sanitizer dispensers and other safety features will be installed in courthouse areas as needed.
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