Rheingold, Giuffra, Ruffo & Plotkin LLP is pleased to share Judge Janet Difiore’s latest COVID-19 protocol updates. On Monday, February 14th, Judge Difiore released a statement surrounding the latest COVID developments affecting the New York courts and the justice system.
In this message, she relayed the positive news that the number of judges and court staff testing positive for COVID-19 has continued to decline, consequently allowing the courts to focus on returning to in-person proceedings and services.
She wrote: we will now be able to “put all of our focus on resuming full-court operations so that we can clear out our backlogs and return to the outstanding progress of the Excellence Initiative when we were managing our dockets and resolving cases efficiently and expeditiously”.
In addition, the courts have changed their original 6-foot social distancing guideline to one of only 3 feet. Under the 6-foot rule, courtrooms were not able to be used to their maximum capacity which constituted the necessity of using multiple courtrooms to conduct a single criminal jury trial. This unfortunately limited the number of trials that we're able to be conducted.
Judge Difiore continued by expressing the importance of our constitutional rights and interests, including “the right to a speedy trial for individuals accused of crimes”.
The decision to move to 3-foot physical distance was made after consulting with Governor Hochul’s office, and the State Commissioner of Health.
Judge Difiore continued by stating that all other established health and safety protocols will be continued to be enforced including:
- Screeding and temperature checks
- Disciplined use of face masks and PPE
- Proper ventilation
- Strict cleaning and sanitizing
Lastly, Judge Difiore ended her COVID-19 update by stating “We don’t take anything for granted when it comes to COVID- 19. And you can be assured that we will continue to balance the safety and well-being of everyone in our buildings with our resolve and determination to resume full-court operations, so that we best position ourselves to honor the responsibilities we have to serve the needs of the lawyers and litigants who depend on our courts for timely and efficient justice services.”