After a brief reprieve at the beginning of the summer, the Delta variant of COVID-19 has led to an increase in COVID-19 cases in New York City, with the current positivity rate hovering around 4%. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that the Delta variant is far more infectious and transmissible than previous versions of the virus. With that in mind, Governor Kathy Hochul signed a new statewide eviction moratorium earlier this month stating that New Yorkers who have experienced financial or physical hardships cannot be forced out of their homes until January of 2022.
Earlier this month, New York State’s Office of Court Administration (“OCA”) and Chief Judge Janet DiFore moved forward with a potentially haphazard plan requiring tenants and attorneys to make in-person appearances in Housing Court starting on September 21, 2021. This will be the first since the coronavirus pandemic prompted widespread courthouse shutdowns in Spring 2020. The revamped experience promises schedules and capacity limits set to stem the spread of COVID-19 and appease tenants’ fears.
Here is what we know so far about the new mandates relating to the NYC Housing Court:
- The majority of these proceedings will take place virtually, but there will be a few in-person appearances.
- While the cases intakes will continue to happen virtually, litigants now have the option to appear in-person to be assigned counsel and appear in-person for the preliminary conference. Following the conference, the judge will decide whether to proceed in-person or online.
- In-person court appearances will be limited to a maximum of five cases per day. No in-person appearances will take place at the same time that another in-person case is being heard in a neighboring courtroom. People waiting for their cases to begin will not be allowed to congregate in hallways.
- The court system is taking safety precautions seriously hence, vaccinated or otherwise, everyone will be required to wear masks in the courthouse at all times. In the event a visitor or a worker tests positive for COVID-19, everyone who may have potentially been in proximity to that person will be notified.
Given the aforementioned changes, a group of legal aid attorneys, housing rights advocates, and elected officials wrote to OCA and Governor Hochul urging extreme caution in inviting people back into the courthouses; the result of their efforts remains to be seen. However, we The Law Offices of Marjory Cajoux also urge judges, non-judicial personnel, and frequent court visitors to continue following all safety and operational protocols when making in-person court appearances. As always you can depend on us to keep you diligently informed of the latest developments. We are ready and committed to inform, support, and serve you in the areas of immigration, real estate, estate, and business planning, as well as personal injury (WTC claims).