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COVID-19’s Impact on Litigation and Discovery in New York Courts

The state courts in New York closed their doors to all non-essential functions as it became clear that the coronavirus was sweeping through the state and that court proceedings are likely venues for the disease to spread. The closure has drastically slowed down litigation that was ongoing at the time and has prevented most new litigation from starting.

However, in the weeks since the shutdown, the courts have worked to transition to a remote environment where court matters can be heard without the need for people to physically appear in a courtroom.

In a recent development, the courts have begun to provide remote access for some non-essential proceedings. Lawrence Marks, the state’s chief administrative judge, said in an April 8 order that:

  • Any non-essential matter will be handled via Skype or telephone calls;
  • Only pending non-essential cases will be worked on;
  • No new non-essential cases can yet be filed;
  • Judges will be reviewing their backlogs and deciding pending motions as they are able.

Regarding trials, Judge Marks said in a March 13 memorandum that those already pending would continue to conclusion but that no other trials will commence until further notice.

Until the courts fully reopen at some future point that no one can predict, litigants and attorneys will need to be patient and adaptable.

For example, discovery in civil cases is being deferred under an administrative order issued March 19. It requires parties to use their best efforts to postpone discovery proceedings by agreement if anyone is unable to meet schedules for reasons related to the coronavirus health emergency. No party will be penalized if discovery compliance is delayed for these reasons, the order states. In the meantime, trial lawyers are working to prepare their cases as effectively as possible, using methods like videoconferencing for depositions, interviews and even notarization of documents.

Litigation in federal court has also been drastically curtailed. New York has four federal judicial districts, and individual judges within the districts can, for the most part, set their own rules about when and how they want to hear cases. In the Western District of New York, which includes Rochester, all civil jury trials are delayed until May 16 at the earliest. In the Northern District of New York, which includes Albany, all civil trials are postponed without dates.

The Law Office of James L. Riotto in Rochester and Albany remains available to assist new and existing clients. We are working with clients remotely through videoconferences and telephone calls. If you have questions about the status of a case or need legal assistance in a new matter, please call at 866-772-2122 or contact us online and we’ll respond as soon as possible.

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James L. Riotto
Criminal Defense Lawyer

James L. Riotto is an accomplished criminal defense attorney serving clients in New York. With an extensive background in law enforcement and criminal prosecution, his approach to each case is unique and informed by years of experience with the New York criminal justice system. As a graduate from Albany Law School and before going on to start his own practice, James worked at the Albany County District Attorney's Office, where he helped prosecute many DWI offenses. His inside knowledge of the tactics used to gain convictions provides him with a particular advantage when defending against DUI and other criminal charges.

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Adam Staier
Of Counsel

About Attorney Adam Staier has spent the last seven years practicing criminal defense law throughout upstate New York and the Capital Region. He began his legal career through internships in civil law, indigent legal representation and federal energy law regulation. Finding a passion in criminal law, Mr. Staier held internships handling both prosecution and defense…

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