By Clerk of the Court John Domurad
As we enter our 18th month of pandemic living, I thought it might be helpful to provide a quick update on the Court’s current COVID-19 policies and several of the initiatives we are undertaking to capture the lessons learned during this difficult period.
With the onset of the Delta variant and the updated guidance from the CDC, on August 6, 2021, the Board of Judges modified General Order 61 regarding face masking and social distancing. Currently, all visitors to an NDNY courthouse will be required to wear a mask within all common areas. (Please remember that, while medical and N95 masks fulfill this requirement, bandanas and “gators” do not.) Masking and social distancing policies within a courtroom, jury room or chambers area will be determined by the presiding judicial officer. The Court is continually monitoring the Northern District’s COVID-19 environment and will modify these polices as circumstances require. Any changes will be immediately posted to the District’s webpage at the following location: https://www.nynd.uscourts.gov/public-emergency.
While the pandemic has brought many challenges, it has also opened the door for us to explore new avenues to serve our stakeholders. As you may be aware, the Northern District encompasses 32 counties and more than 30,0000 square miles. Accordingly, litigants and bar members are often required to drive several hours to visit our offices. Building upon the lessons we have learned since March 2020, we are developing a web-based solution through which litigants and members of the bar can schedule an appointment for a court-initiated videoconference to discuss their issue. While this solution is still in development, our goal is to create an easily accessible platform on which we can host these videoconferences, whether that platform is accessed by computer, tablet or smart phone (as long as it has an internet connection).
In addition to expanding the accessibility of videoconferencing, we are also actively exploring the tasks that can be accomplished within these videoconferences. One of the most promising developments is the ability to have parties execute documents during a videoconference, thus eliminating the need to send documents for execution through alternate means. We are currently preparing to deploy this technology at the Broome and Clinton County Correctional Facilities. Based upon the lessons we learn from these test locations; we hope to be able to expand this technology to other facilities and judicial proceedings. Further details about these projects can be found on the District’s webpage in the announcements section. In addition, if you have any questions, concerns or would like additional information on any of the topics covered, please feel free to give me a call (at 518-257-1809) and I will be glad to assist you.