New York courts starting to reopen, facing challenges

Coronavirus

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Minor court cases that were put on the back burner during the COVID-19 pandemic will slowly begin to be seen as the court system begins to reopen.

Governor Andrew Cuomo tweeted out on Monday that judges and staff from 30 upstate counties will return to work at courthouses this week, opening the gate for judges to take up cases for minor infractions.

“All of those appearance that have been written county-wide, I do anticipate that we’re going to have our hands full,” said Albany County District Attorney David Soares.

The Finger Lakes, Southern Tier, Mohawk Valley, North County and Central New York are beginning court operations this week.

Though the Capital Region has not begun the multi-phased reopening process, Soares said conveening a jury may be the biggest hurdle for his staff.

Soares said he was concerned potential jurors might not want to be on a jury because of perceived health risks.

“We have 45 days to conveen a grand jury. Now, if we’re asking them to come in and they don’t come, that’s going to be an interesting question for the courts,” Soares said.

The defendant’s right to a fast and speedy trial will have to be matched by the health of those on a jury, according to Soares.

For major cases, judges have been holding virtual hearings to help expedite case loads.

Soares also added it’s the responsibility of the defendant to contact the court when the region reopens.

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