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Juries and Jury Trials Return in New York City

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo Plotkin & Hellman LLP

After a seven month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, jury trials are scheduled to resume in New York City.  The first civil jury trials began this past Monday and criminal jury trials are scheduled to commence on October 26, 2020.  That is welcome news to the justice system, the trial lawyers, and all those seeking criminal and civil justice.

While the trials are a normal and necessary part of the justice system, there will be lingering reminders of the pandemic.  According to the NY Post, “The trials will be limited to one or two per day in each borough to restrict in-court appearances, according to the Office of Court Administration spokesman Lucian Chalfen.

Normally, nine civil jury trials go on in the courts on a given day. Most cases settle before trial.

Potential jurors, who must wear masks, will be questioned about any exposure to COVID-19 at courthouse entrances and will have their temperature taken.

Seating in courtrooms will be distanced and some jurors may be placed outside the jury box. Face shields will be distributed to those who want them.

Plexiglass barriers have been set up in courtrooms around the judge’s bench, court reporter, witness stand and lawyers’ desks.”

The capacity in each courtroom will be limited to essential personnel, including juries while virtual efforts will be made to accommodate others who wish to view the proceedings. 

The ensuing backlog of cases has been a tremendous strain on the system as well as those seeking justice.  The pandemic’s closure of the courts compelled the state legislature and the Governor to extend the statute of limitations of the Child Victims Act for another year so that those survivors of childhood sexual abuse can seek redress in the courts. 

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