Coronavirus News: Jury service temporarily halted in New York state

Coronavirus Update for New York
NEW YORK (WABC) -- New York is putting a temporary stop on jury service starting on Monday as coronavirus continues to rise across the state.

"In light of advice from our epidemiologist and Governor Cuomo's most recent directives concerning limiting congregation of groups of people in public and private locations, we have made a determination that starting next week, no new prospective trial jurors, both criminal and civil, will be summoned for jury service, for now," Office of Court Administration spokesperson Lucian Chalfen said.

Pending criminal and civil jury trials and bench trials will continue to conclusion. New bench trials and hearings will be conducted virtually.

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No new prospective grand jurors will be summoned for grand jury service until further notice. Pending grand juries will continue to a conclusion.

Socially-distanced in-person court conferences will continue.

"The health and safety of the public, our colleagues in the courthouse, and our staff is paramount," Nassau County DA Madeline Singas said. "Every Nassau resident should rest assured that our work to keep Nassau County the safest in America continues - as it did before the resumption of juries - with arraignments, pleas, hearings and the issuance of orders of protection. Most of our staff worked virtually in March, April and May, and our operations will continue without interruption."

Decisions about possible adjustment of staffing levels in the trial courts will be addressed in the coming days, officials said.

Elizabeth Nevins-Saunders, with Hofstra Law School's Criminal Justice Clinic, said the new directive disproportionally harms minorities who make up the bulk of people waiting for trials and court dates.

"I think it's incredibly unjust the way we're treating criminal defendants," she said. "These folks continue to suffer and they suffer more than anybody else."

Nevins-Saunders said the backlog in the court system due to the pandemic is not just for trials, but also for people who have appearance tickets or were arrested on minor charges. She said not having a court date is harmful to people who are trying to get jobs, obtain custody of children or who are dealing with immigration issues.

"It's the clients who suffer and their families," she said.

She said at the Criminal Justice Center they have cases in which they are begging for court dates for clients.

Nevins-Saunders said the longer cases drag out, the more likely people are to plead guilty or take a plea deal.

"They just can't keep holding on," she said.

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