State goes mostly virtual for court actions

State goes mostly virtual for court actions
Court proceedings, like the rest of daily life, are being affected by COVID.

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - New York state is going mostly virtual, when it comes to court proceedings.

That’s in response to the worsening COVID-19 pandemic.

The state court system had already called a halt to in-person criminal and civil trials, and in a statement this week, Chief Judge Janet DiFiore said all non-essential personal appearances in civil court will be suspended, and only essential and emergency in-person appearances will be allowed in criminal, family and housing courts.

“We will rely on the demonstrated ability of our judges and staff to resolve cases and deliver justice in our virtual courts,” DiFiore said

A number of local courts, including town courts in Canton, Potsdam and Oswegatchie, canceled proceedings Wednesday. Town of Gouverneur court said it was canceling proceedings until further notice. Town of Pamelia court canceled its Thursday sessions.

Di Fiore said family court, in particular, is already handling much of its work remotely and that will be expanded, including providing additional help to people with business in family court. One of the areas where the additional help will be available is the part of the state which includes St. Lawrence County.

DiFiore said in-person staffing at courts will be reduced to 40 percent or less.

She also said the court system will, because of a strict hiring freeze, see its total employment fall below 15,000 by next April, the lowest level in more than a decade.

“At a time when the need for our services has never been greater, we find ourselves in a place where every one of us is being asked to do more with less,” she said.

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