On July 20, NYS Chief Judge Janet DiFiore started this video update by reminding everyone that during the pandemic NY courts have never been closed, and the judges and professional staff have never stopped delivering justice. She highlighted the start of in-person bench and jury trials that were suspended in March. Last week, judges in the NYC Criminal Court presided over matters in which in-person appearances by counsel and defendants were calendared, and that effort resulted in a significant number of dispositions and other substantive action to move cases forward. She said that NYC Housing Court is moving ahead with limited resumption of in-person proceedings, and last Monday, NYSCEF e-filing was introduced as a way to limit the number of people coming to that court for in-person filing.
The Chief Judge also says that three of the busiest trial parts from Kings County Housing Court were moved to more spacious courtrooms in the Kings County Supreme Court building at 320 Jay Street. Due to the surge in COVID-19 cases around the country, the bar exam will not be administered on Sept. 9th and 10th as planned. The Court of Appeals, working with the Presiding Justices of the Appellate Division, developed a contingency plan. The first part is a temporary program authorizing eligible law graduates to practice law under the supervision of a NY attorney. Additionally, the Chief Judge convened a Working Group on the Future of the Bar Exam, led by former Court of Appeals Judge, Howard Levine. The first immediate priority of the group is to promptly review and recommend whether New York should participate in the online bar exam being offered by the National Conference of Bar Examiners in October. The group is also considering whether New York should adopt an emergency diploma privilege in lieu of the bar exam or whether we should take any other immediate measures designed to ameliorate the difficulties faced by 2020 law graduates.