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COVID 19 Alert: Latest Developments Affecting the Courts, The Justice System, and O’Brien & Associates Law Firm Operations

July 2, 2020

  1. Phase Four Return to In-Person Operations by Courts in New York’s Fourth Judicial District (Counties of Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Montgomery, Saratoga, Schenectady, St. Lawrence, Warren, and Washington)

New York State’s Unified Court System has announced that on Monday, July 6, courts in the Fourth Judicial District will increase the types of proceedings to be heard in person.  These courts are in the counties of Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Montgomery, Saratoga, Schenectady, St. Lawrence, Warren, and Washington.  (This order also applies to courts in the fifth, sixth, and seventh judicial districts, but not to courts in the Capital Region, New York’s Third Judicial District.)  Third Judicial District courts in Albany, Columbia, Greene, Rensselaer, Schoharie, Sullivan and Ulster Counties will remain in Phase three as described in our COVID 19 Update, dated June 29, 2020.

Relative to family law matters, the types of proceedings in phase four to be heard in-person will include:

  • Child support proceedings
  • Child permanency hearings
  • Essential Family Court matters
  • A limited number of bench trials in civil matters

Matters that will continue to be heard virtually include non-essential matters, juvenile delinquency proceedings, adoptions, and mental hygiene law proceedings pertaining to a hospitalized adult.  Mediation/alternative dispute resolution will be conducted virtually.

Safety and efficiency procedures will be implemented to limit the number of people in courthouses and ensure that no more than half of the courtrooms are being used at any given time.  Additionally, non-judicial staffing will be limited.  All Phase One, Two, and Three measures will remain in place, as described in our previous COVID 19 Alerts.

  1. Coronavirus Screening of Courthouse Visitors


“As we continue to address the operational problems created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the following additional protocols have been instituted in the workplace for the safety of all court system personnel and court users.

  1. Commencing July 6, 2020, visitors (including parties, attorneys, witnesses, spectators, law enforcement officers, prisoners, vendors, and all other non-UCS personnel) to any Unified Court System facility will be required to submit to temperature screening and questioning upon entry into the facility and prior to magnetometer and x-ray security screening. The number and location of screening stations shall be determined by the local command.
  2. A uniformed officer shall take the visitor’s temperature by infrared thermometer without physical contact to the visitor, in accordance with thermometer manufacturer’s instructions. The officer will ask whether, within the last l4 days, the visitor has had fever, cough, shortness of breath or any flu-like symptoms, has tested positive for COVID-19 (or been in close contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19), orhas returned from travel abroad or from a state covered by Executive Order 205.

Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order 205 (June 24, 2020) provides that ‘all travelers entering New York from a state with a positive test rate higher than l0 per 100,000 residents, or higher than a l0% test positivity rate, over a seven day rolling average, will be required to quarantine for a period of l4 days consistent with Department of Health regulations for quarantine.’

  1. If the visitor’s registered temperature is less than 100.0″ F., and the visitor answers “no” to the questions, the visitor shall be permitted to proceed to the magnetometer/x- ray machine.
  2. If a visitor’s registered temperature is equal to or greater than 100.0. F., or the visitor answers “yes” to any of the questions, the visitor shall be asked for the following information for the court’s records: (a) visitor’s full name; (b) case name, index number, and judge; and (c) reason for court visit (e.g., scheduled hearing, etc.). The visitor shall not be obligated to provide this information. The visitor shall then be instructed:
  • to leave the court facility immediately;
  • if a represented party, to notify her/his attorney of the incident; and
  • if an unrepresented party, to contact the clerk’s office (at a number provided) and seek further Similar instructions should be provided if the visitor is a witness, attorney, or other necessary participant on a matter on that day’s calendar.
  1. Whenever a court visitor registers a temperature of 100.0.F or higher or answers “yes” to a screening question, uniformed personnel shall maintain a record of the information described in paragraph 4 above (if voluntarily provided by the visitor), together with a brief description of follow-up events (departure of visitor from the building, etc.). This daily record shall be filed as a single unusual occurrence report (UOR) at the close of each day.
  2. Uniformed personnel shall wear appropriate PPE (face mask, face shield, disposable gloves) when taking temperatures of court visitors; and shall dispose of gloves and perform hand hygiene following the taking of visitors’ temperatures and prior to performing other duties.
  3. The thermometer shall be maintained in a secure location, shall be cleaned periodically, and shall be wiped immediately with an alcohol cleaning pad whenever it physically touches a court visitor during use. Thermometer batteries shall be checked and replaced periodically by local command.

As always, the health and safety of our workforce and of the public remain the top Unified Court System priority as we return to courthouse and office settings around the state in coming days and weeks.”

COVID 19 Alert: Latest Developments Affecting the Courts, The Justice System, and O’Brien & Associates Law Firm Operations

June 29, 2020

The New York State Unified Court System announced that all courts outside New York City are now in phase three of a gradual return to in-person operations.

The goal of phase three is to gradually increase foot traffic in the courts and extend the types of proceedings that are heard in-person. Relative to family law matters, these proceedings include:

  • Child support proceedings
  • Essential Family Court matters which will continue to be heard in-person
  • A limited number of bench trials in civil matters

Judges will continue to expand use of virtual proceedings whenever legally permissible and logistically possible. Non-essential matters will be conducted virtually.

Judges and clerks will coordinate to ensure that court space is used to optimize safety and efficiency. There will be staggered scheduling of court appearances, court calendars and courtroom usage to limit the number of people in courthouses and ensure that no more than half of the courtrooms are being used at any given time.

During this third phase, non-judicial staffing levels will increase modestly to support necessary administrative court functions as well as to provide support for the moderate increase in foot traffic in the courthouse.

“To keep up our progress as we re-establish in-person courthouse operations across the state, we must proceed cautiously, remaining vigilant in following the new safety measures and operational protocols designed to protect the health of our judges, staff and court visitors,” said Chief Judge Janet DiFiore.

Phase One measures that will remain in place to protect the health and safety of judges, staff and court visitors include:

  • Anyone entering the courthouse will be required to wear a mask.
  • All staff who interact with court visitors must wear a mask.
  • Courthouse areas will be carefully marked to ensure proper physical distancing.
  • Court facilities will be regularly sanitized.
  • Installation of acrylic barriers, hand sanitizer dispensers and other safety features in courthouse areas as needed.

Joanne P. Monagan, Esq
Principal Attorney/CEO