ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Janet DiFiore, New York’s Chief Judge, says state courts are restoring in-person operations in Albany, Columbia, Greene, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Warren, and Washington Counties on Tuesday, following openings last week in Fulton, Montgomery, and Schoharie Counties.

DiFiore says the court system supports the phased plan to reopen regional economies. Everywhere that’s open across the Capital Region has authorized filing new lawsuits previously considered nonessential

Currently, new lawsuits can only be filed electronically wherever NYSCEF e-filing is available. Wherever it’s not, new matters must come through traditional mail, provided the region has been cleared to start phase one. Take a look at Administrative Order 114, which outlines these protocols:

Still, supporting phased reopening means defining a new normal for courtroom procedures and safety measures designed to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. DiFiore counsels caution and patience as restrictions carefully loosen.

“This is not a return to business as usual.”

Janet DiFiore
Chief Judge of the State of New York

For those who must be physically present, they’ve enacted standard safety measures like requiring masks, maintaining social distance, upgraded cleaning standards, availability of personal protective equipment, plexiglass partitions throughout courthouses, and coronavirus screenings.

Slowing courthouse traffic by limiting public access and reducing density is meant to protect essential personnel or individuals on official business. Instead, the state justice system will increasingly rely on virtual options as much as possible.

DiFiore says the state’s backlog of undecided motions has been cleared in almost all courts outside of New York City. In New York City, high-volume Housing Courts have started teleconferencing in pending evictions, where both sides have legal representation. They hope to clear the docket ahead of a barrage of filings they anticipate once the eviction moratoriums expire June 20.

Although the initial application period for the bar exam closed May 15, the court system hopes to accept new applications on a rolling basis as space permits, in order to maintain social distancing guidelines.