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Phase One Re-Opening of In-Person Court Operations

On May 13, 2020 the New York State Unified Court System announced a plan for the gradual return of judges, clerks, and court staff to courthouses in select upstate counties—with litigants being able to electronically file new cases in those counties.[1] 

The re-opening with begin on Monday, May 18, 2020 with the following counties: Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Delaware, Schuyler, Steuben, Tioga, Tompkins, Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne, Wyoming, Yates, Fulton, Herkimer, Montgomery, Oneida, Otsego and Schoharie.  Then, on May 20, courthouses in Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties will re-open.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, courts remained opened but with limited operations.  Beginning Monday, May 18, upstate counties hope to begin more normalized operations while maintaining social distancing and other restrictions to protect the health of the public and court employees. The safety measures include:

  • “Non-employee court visitors will be required to undergo COVID-19 screening before entering the courthouse.
  • All staff who interact with court visitors must wear a mask.
  • Everyone entering the courthouse will be required to wear a mask, with masks available for those who need one.
  • Courtroom and other areas will be carefully marked to ensure proper physical distancing.
  • Court facilities will be regularly sanitized.
  • Hand sanitizer dispensers will be available throughout the courthouse.
  • Acrylic barriers and other safety features will be installed in courthouse areas as needed.”[2]

Also, on May 13, 2020, the Five County Clerks of the City of New York announced an initial resumption plan that includes “logging, prepping and sequential queuing of all documents received since the March 20th cessation[.]”  Following this, “the process of sequential docketing and filing will recommence at a pace dictated by limited staffing levels and mandates consistent with Executive and Administrative Orders.”[3] The offices will still remain closed to the public and submission should still be made by mail.

By Michael Farinacci, Muhammad U. Faridi, and Stephen P. Younger

[1] Press Release, New York Unified Court System, New York State Court System to Begin Return to In-Person Courthouse Operations (May 13, 2020), announcement follows an April 27 announcement that the court system had 168 confirmed cases of COVID-19. MESSAGE FROM CHIEF JUDGE DIFIORE (transcript), New York County Lawyers Association (April 27, 2020),

[3]  Resumption of Limited Processing Only Operations of Certain Clerk of the County Functions, New York State Unified Court System (May 13, 2020),