New York Courts Halt Many Filings, Launch Skype Hearings

(Bloomberg) -- The New York court system, one of the country’s largest and busiest, has stopped accepting non-essential filings and said it will begin holding virtual hearings in response to the coronavirus crisis.

New York Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks on Sunday ordered county clerks across the state only to allow filings in matters deemed essential, including criminal, child-protection and very urgent housing cases.

Saying “extraordinary times like these call for extraordinary measures,” Marks and Chief Judge Janet DiFiore also said New York City would start holding criminal and family court proceedings via Skype to reduce courtroom crowding.

Criminal defendants who haven’t tested positive for the virus and are not in a high-risk group will be virtually arraigned from central booking locations, while those who have tested positive or are at risk will be detained prior to their arraignments at certain locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Arraignments will remain open to the public, though security officers will limit access to maintain social distancing.

New York City family court will hear certain cases, including child-protection cases and juvenile delinquency applications, by remote video applications.

Brad Hoylman, a Democratic state senator who represents parts of Manhattan, expressed concern that the restrictions on non-essential filings would halt new cases under a law that created a 12-month window for victims of childhood sexual assaults to sue, regardless of the statute of limitations on their claims. He called for the Child Victims Act to be extended for another year.

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