When Are NYC Courts Fully Opening For Business?
On Monday, the New York State Unified Court System will take a substantial step to reopen the court system in New York for non-essential matters. Since March 22, 2020 litigants could only initiate “essential” matters, as set forth in Administrative Order AO/78/20, which included, among others, criminal arraignments, child protection intake cases involving removal applications, civil/ housing applications addressing serious code violations, and other matters the court deemed essential.
New York State Supreme Courts
Beginning on Monday, May 25, e-filing in the New York State Supreme Courts through the New York State Courts Electronic Filing system (NYSCEF) for new non-essential matters will be restored for counties that have not yet met the benchmarks for reopening under the Governor’s regional reopening plan, including—the five New York City counties, Nassau and Suffolk counties, Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster, and Westchester counties. Litigants may, therefore, file motions and initiate litigation in non-essential matters.
However, this restoration of NYSCEF usage will be limited to cases in which represented parties file and serve all papers electronically. Whereas, unrepresented litigants may continue to file, serve, and be served papers through non-electronic means.
New York City Civil Court
Unlike the New York Supreme Court, the New York City Civil Court, with its high volume of cases (which includes housing court cases), is not able, at this time, to utilize the NYSCEF system. But the lower courts are making efforts to move cases forward. In certain circumstances, motions may be made and submitted to a judge for decision, and conferences may be held, which may facilitate settlement or resolution of disputes. Such procedures are limited to pending cases, where all parties are represented by an attorney, and where all parties consent to the filing/submission of the motion or to the conference. Submission of documents is facilitated by the recent establishment of an electronic document delivery system (EDDS). Cases that involve unrepresented litigants do not meet these requirements, and if a party does not consent, no defaults may be taken.
Moratorium On Evictions
[For an update on moratorium on evictions please see Update on Commercial and Residential Evictions, dated 8/13/2020.]
Some confusion has arisen from the two Executive Orders that impose a moratorium on evictions. Executive Order 202.8 provides that no evictions of any kind may take place until June 20, 2020. Executive Order 202.28 bars the initiation of any foreclosure or eviction proceedings against those owners or renters (residential and commercial) who face financial hardship due to the pandemic for an additional 60 days, through August 20, 2020. The distinction is a subtle one: the later order provides a financial hardship defense to such proceedings. To add to the confusion, Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence K. Marks’ March 15, 2020, Administrative Order provided that “[e]ffective March 16, all eviction proceedings and pending eviction orders shall be suspended statewide until further notice.” Thus, the combined effect of the foregoing is that the commencement of new eviction proceedings is barred until further order by the New York courts, which order will not be effective before June 20, 2020, and possibly August 20, 2020.
Also unclear is what effect these orders have on the execution of existing warrants, especially in light of both the PAUSE order and the effort to curtail an increase in the homeless population. Clarification may be forthcoming as we near the June 20, 2020 date.