More Virtual Court Appearances

The increase in positivity in NY has led to further restrictions on in person court appearances.  The NY State Chief Judge consistent with guidelines from the Governor in an effort to stem the spread of Covid-19 has issued directives reducing the foot traffic in the NY State Courthouses.  While there are exceptions for child neglect and abuse matters, orders of protection and certain criminal matters, the goal has returned to having cases heard virtually.

Virtual court appearances may, at the discretion of the individual judge, be by telephonic conference where the attorneys call in to a pre-designated conference call number with the Judge and then the Court, if necessary, will call the individual clients for the conference.  Many judges prefer not to give the conference call information directly to the litigants instead utilizing a system where the Court will call and join in the parties.

Virtual court appearances can also be done utilizing web software known as Microsoft Teams.  Previously the Court was using Skype For Business but that system has been replaced with Microsoft Teams.  That system is utilized with a designated link that the attorneys receive from the Court and the attorneys remotely log in to an audio/video feed with the Court, the other attorneys and the litigants appear either using the audio/video link or the Court staff calls the litigant by phone and they appear via speakerphone in the courtroom.  

These methods are the Court system's best effort to try and maintain the flow of cases, conferences and hearings under a strained system.  During the summer the Courts had opened up more and clients and attorneys were allowed in the building, although at a reduced capacity (no more than half the courtrooms in use at 25% capacity).  Now the Judges have been encouraged not to have parties and attorneys in the building except for designated cases or special circumstances.  

The result is that while the Court system continues to function it does so at a reduced daily capacity.  Adjournments of cases often are granted for longer periods of time due to the numerical restrictions placed on the judges and the need to have assigned times for cases to avoid or minimize remote overcrowding.

In my opinion, things will get better as we go through the winter, the vaccines begin to get administered, people continue to wear masks when recommended, social distancing continues, the weather gets better and the positivity rate declines.

Until that time lawyers, judges and clients all are doing our best to help people who besides the impact of Covid-19 are dealing with the heartache of divorce, separation, child support, spousal support, custody, equitable distribution and orders of protection.  As long as we all stay healthy we can deal with all of these issues and move forward, perhaps at a different pace then we in NY are use to but still at a forward pace.