Category: COVID-19 Updates
On December 4, 2020, the Administrative Board of the Courts sought public comment on the Commercial Division Advisory Council’s (“CDAC”) proposed amendment to Commercial Division Rule 3(a), 22 NYCRR § 202.70(g). The current language of Rule 3 permits the court to direct, or for counsel to seek, the appointment of an uncompensated mediator for the purpose of mediating a resolution of all or some issues presented in the litigation The CDAC’s Rule 3(a) proposal would “permit the use of neutral evaluation as an [alternative dispute resolution (“ADR”)] mechanism and to allow for the inclusion of neutral evaluators in rosters of court-approved neutrals.” Currently, under Part 146 of the Rules of the Chief Administrative Judge, “neutral evaluation” is “a confidential, non-binding process in which a neutral third party (the neutral evaluator) with expertise in the subject matter relating to the dispute provides an assessment of likely court outcomes of a case or an issue in an effort to help parties reach a settlement.” The Chief Administrative Judge’s rules already set forth the training prerequisites to become a neutral evaluator.
On February 11, 2021, the New York State Unified Court System issued Virtual Bench Trial Protocols and Procedures (“Protocols and Procedures”) in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. While “Virtual Bench Trials are, in all respects, identical to In-Person Courtroom Bench Trials[,]….certain modifications are necessary regarding the presentation of testimonial, documentary, and physical evidence in order to safeguard accuracy and ensure reliability.”
On Monday, Chief Judge Janet DiFiore issued a statement on the latest developments affecting jury trials in New York City.
Commercial Division Considers Effects of COVID Executive Orders on Use and Occupancy Payments for Real Estate
A recent ruling by the Kings County Commercial Division offers a glimpse into how courts in New York may resolve COVID-19-related disputes regarding leases and real property, as well as how courts may handle situations in which the Governor’s executive orders, intended to stem the spread of COVID-19, have affected the abilities of parties to follow court orders issued prior to the pandemic.
A common question in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak has been whether the pandemic or governmental responses to the pandemic provide, depending on the jurisdiction, an impossibility or impracticability defense for nonperformance under a contract.
The answer to that question will, of course, turn on the facts underlying the nonperformance, as well as the law of the jurisdiction. Two recent decisions from New York are instructive on the contours of the defense of impossibility — the relevant defense under New York law.
As the country entered into an extended period of lockdowns this spring, there was widespread concern that the anticipated severe economic impact of the pandemic would lead to a wave of defaults and foreclosures in the commercial real estate market.
On August 17, 2020, the Appellate Division, First Department announced that starting in the September term, and continuing until further notice, it will hold oral arguments both in-person at the courthouse and remotely via Microsoft Teams. In-person oral arguments will be held on Wednesdays and remote oral arguments will be held on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.
The Commission to Reimagine the Future of New York’s Courts Releases Goals for Restarting in-Person Juries
In mid-June, Chief Judge Janet DiFiore appointed the Commission to Reimagine the Future of New York’s Courts, and charged it with examining technological, regulatory, and other long-term innovations for New York Courts. Additionally, in the short-term, it was to provide recommendations for resuming in-person court operations amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Starting on September 8, 2020 and continuing indefinitely, litigants eligible for oral argument in the Second Department will be given the option of arguing in person, via Microsoft Teams, or submitting. Notice must be sent to the court and other litigants no later than three days prior to the date on which the matter is calendared. If there is a divergence of opinion among litigants, the court will determine how oral argument will be heard or whether the matter will be marked submitted. Members of the public are still not permitted to attend oral argument at the courthouse.
In the wake of punishing economic losses caused by Covid-19-related shutdown orders, business owners across New York have turned to their insurers for temporary relief in the form of business interruption coverage. If recent reports are any indication, however, New York businesses will face an uphill battle.
Although New York City’s state court judges are now back in their chambers, in-person hearings have not yet commenced.
Administrative Judge Deborah A. Kaplan reported that her division has had success using “video-linked ‘virtual’ hearings for a wide range of matters.” In-person hearings will still be available when truly necessary. For example, this option may be available to self-represented litigants without access to the requisite technology.
On June 15, 2020, Chief Judge DiFiore announced that the five upstate regions—Finger Lakes, Central New York, Mohawk Valley, Southern Tier, and North Country—that began Phase III reopening last Friday, June 12, will expand the number of in-person functions in their courthouses beginning June 17. Accordingly, these regions will now handle in-person matters including a limited number of bench trials in civil matters.
Updates on COVID-19’s Impact on Commercial Appeals: New York Court of Appeals Expands Digital Filings, While the Appellate Division Lifts Moratorium on Filing Deadlines and Hears Skype Argument
Originally published May 21, 2020.
The progress of taking commercial appeals in New York has been impacted significantly by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Deadlines for perfecting appeals were suspended and oral arguments were canceled. Although Skype conferences were being held in the trial level courts, such as the Commercial Division, arguments were not being scheduled on typical appeals. Recently, as Chief Judge Janet DiFiore has overseen a gradual re-opening of significant portions of the New York courts, there have been material developments in appellate practice which affect commercial litigators. These developments reflect a sense that appeals are starting to move forward again, albeit with the naturally attendant backlogs that the COVID-19 crisis has engendered.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had considerable effect on appellate practice in New York State’s intermediary appellate court, the Appellate Division. The last months have seen historical firsts, such as all four appellate departments hosting virtual oral arguments on Zoom and Skype. Many parties have not had the opportunity to take part in oral argument, as their cases have been decided on submission or adjourned. The four departments have issued a flurry of notices to the bar revising their rules of practice and many of these changes could very well be permanent.
New York State Courts Begin Reopening Process As Some Upstate Regions Meet Initial State Reopening Criteria
Chief Judge Janet DiFiore recently announced that New York state courts have begun the process of re-opening the in-person court system and increasing the capacity of new matters that may be filed in New York state courts. The courts that are beginning the physical reopening process are located within New York’s Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth judicial districts. Those districts roughly cover the regions of New York that do not include New York City and the surrounding suburbs. Electronic filing of new non-essential cases also, to the extent permissible prior to the COVID-19 crisis, resumed on Memorial Day, May 25th, 2020.
Chief Judges Announce Plan for Virtual Court Proceedings and Resumption of Non-Essential Matters in the Commercial Division and Other CourtsUpdated
Update: Chief Administrative Judge Marks has promulgated an order that makes the plans detailed below effective as of April 13, 2020. The order also notes that video conferences will be administered exclusively through Skype for Business.
As an update to our earlier post on COVID-19’s effect on the Commercial Division, Chief Judge Janet DiFiore and Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence K. Marks recently announced that as of April 6, 2020, all essential proceedings across New York State are now being handled by the New York courts virtually, with judges, attorneys, and most nonjudicial staff participating in those proceedings remotely. Additionally, Chief Judge DiFiore and Chief Administrative Judge Marks announced their preliminary plans for handling non-essential matters, which are as follows:
On March 20, 2020, in order to limit court operations in light of the evolving COVID-19 emergency, Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order 202.8. That order, among other things, tolls through April 19, 2020 “any specific time limit for the commencement, filing, or service of any legal action, notice, motion, or other process or proceeding, as prescribed by the procedural laws of the state[.]” This order means that parties who are facing a deadline to file a civil action have an extension up and until April 19, 2020 in order to do so, unless a further extension of this deadline is granted.
Over the last few days, Judge Lawrence K. Marks, the Chief Administrative Judge of the New York State Unified Court System, issued two memoranda bearing on COVID-19’s effect on the Commercial Division.