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.
- Courthouses Begin To Reopen
As of Monday, May 18th, judges and their personal staff were permitted to return to courthouses located within the Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley, and Southern Tier (the region primarily bordering Pennsylvania). On Wednesday, May 20th, judges and personal staff were also permitted to return to courthouses in the North Country and Central New York.
In reopening these courthouses, Judge DiFiore cautioned that COVID-19 still poses a serious threat to New York’s court system. To promote the safety of judicial personnel and the general public, facemasks will be mandatory in order to enter any of the re-opened courthouses. In addition, the courthouses will make available facemasks and gloves for court personnel, while hand sanitizer will be available to courthouse visitors. There has not been an announcement yet on the resumption of jury duty or jury trials.
- Courts Begin To Accept Non-Essential Filings
In addition, the court system has begun the process of accepting electronically filed “non-essential” new cases. On May 25th, 2020, all New York state courts permitted e-filing of new non-essential cases, but only in instances where such e-filings would have been accepted prior to the COVID-19 public health crisis. The chart below provides the current status or date that e-filing of new non-essential matters may occur. Note, unless specifically discussed, the Court system has not permitted paper filing. A full listing of permissible electronic filings is available at: https://iapps.courts.state.ny.us/nyscef/AuthorizeCaseType.
As the process to reopen the in-person court system continues, progress has also been made in clearing the backlog of pending motions. In fact, Judge DiFiore announced that as of May 25th, the backlog of motions is cleared in all but one county outside of New York City. Within the New York City courts, the backlog of pending motions has reduced by more than fifty percent.
By Louis Russo and Stephen P. Younger
 Specifically, the Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth approximately cover the New York state courts located in the Finger Lakes, North Country, Southern Tier, and Mohawk Valley regions of the state.