CAPITAL REGION, N.Y. (NEWS10) — State courts resumed some in-person operations in the Capital Region Tuesday, but procedures will not fully return back to “normal.”
While employees in DA’s offices and the Office of Court Administration were allowed to physically return to their buildings Tuesday (with new cleaning and social distancing protocols in place), Rensselaer County District Attorney Mary Pat Donnelly says courthouses will not yet return to their former ways of holding in-person proceedings.
“The court appearances are continuing virtually,” Donnelly explained, “the only difference is the judges are back in the courthouse, as opposed to appearing from home.”
In Albany County, there were two cases scheduled for 9AM Tuesday in the Judicial Center Courtroom, but defendants, their defenders, and the ADA were all still appearing via Skype.
The Albany County DA’s office has reorganized their 4th floor at the Courthouse to accommodate the need to have victims and witnesses testify on the record, as well as several locations in community for situations where it is not safe to bring them to the building for health or confidentiality reasons.
“Normally, we would be wherever we needed to be, we would engage [in safety planning] with our partners,” Albany County District Attorney David Soares said, “but with [COVID-19], it does complicate matters as to what you can do. But we’re still doing it.”
Courts in regions that have reopened can now file lawsuits and court matters previously classified as nonessential. New matters must be filed electronically in courts that use the NYSCEF e-filing system, which Soares finds long overdue.
“The federal system has been doing digital filing for decades now, so the fact that New York is finally embracing this technology,” Soares said, “it’s about time.”